Values & Tensions for Returning to Campus

We acknowledge that all members of our community will continue to face difficult decisions this year as we respond to COVID-19. Additionally, those decisions will be challenged by on-going developments and the course of the pandemic that  may require quick shifts of direction. We share these guiding values as a framework through which members of our community view their decision-making processes, with the hope that it will ground us in the shared determination to safeguard the well-being of all.

Our Values

The desire for our community is clear: Our decisions for the academic year should maximize time spent in a residential liberal-arts experience, in accordance with our strengths and mission. Our decisions to return to campus will embody these values:

  • Safety & Security: We value the safety and security of the physical, mental, and economic health of everyone within our community. At times these may be competing. We agree only to move forward informed with the best available evidence and the necessary expertise to ensure it.
  • Collective Responsibility: We value a responsibility to others in the Davidson College community, the Town of Davidson, and beyond. This includes proactive respect for individuals who are disproportionately targeted by health risks connected to the pandemic and/or bias and discrimination.
  • Solidarity: We value a collective commitment to attend to and respect the concerns of others, in the multiple ways we are linked and threatened by the pandemic. “Solidarity signifies shared practices reflecting a collective commitment to carry ‘costs’ (financial, social, emotional, or otherwise) to assist others.” - Nuffield Council on Bioethics
  • Privacy: We value the protection of individual privacy and community safety. We acknowledge the tension between safety and security and the desire to avoid increasing or revealing vulnerability.
  • Accountability, Transparency, and Communication: We value humility as we face conditions of high uncertainty. We will not expect perfection in all decisions, but do expect a transparent process for continuous reflection and improvement and an allowance for revision and misjudgments. We value open communication between decision makers and those who are affected by decisions. We value the ability to make decisions quickly, acknowledging that such processes may not include the same level of community input and feedback as may have been solicited under normal circumstances.
  • Access & Equity: We value academic, co-curricular, and social experiences that are accessible and equitable to all students, faculty, and staff regardless of their circumstances.
  • Flexibility: We value the ability to adapt to changing circumstances in order to continue our mission.
  • Quality: We value rigor, deep learning, and community regardless of the circumstances.
  • Feasibility: We value a process that works within our constraints while acknowledging possibilities beyond the status quo.

In this difficult time, we also acknowledge a need for consensus around trade-offs that remain aligned with Davidson’s mission and clarify values further by establishing relevant priorities in advance. This is helpful in decision making when 1) there are conflicting constraints that can paralyze the process and/or 2) when we are tempted to veer from our mission and values for convenience or a desire to default to ‘the way we've always done it’. 

General

  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value being in residence and in compliance with public health guidelines, including as those guidelines are operationalized in Davidson’s practices, protocols, and community codes of conduct. Such decisions acknowledge that there is unlikely to be perfect agreement among all members of all constituencies and that the acceptable level of risk has been carefully considered by voices both representative and knowledgeable.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value providing safe living and learning options for students knowing that this restricts individual autonomy.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value the experience of being together safely acknowledging that it may result in a smaller number of activities and staff who are able to do so continuing to work remotely.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value respect for our collective responsibilities based on public health guidelines and safe practices—including but not limited to all community members and campus visitors wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, abiding by hand sanitizing standards, and undergoing temperature checks (with exceptions for individuals with documented inability to comply).
  • Collective responsibility contains within it acknowledgement that individual preferences are subordinate to campus health and safety in the aggregate as well as understanding that guidelines are not static and that compliance standards may change over time, including toward more rigorous benchmarks and practices.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value safety, mitigation of risk, and reduction of potential harm to students, faculty, coaches, and staff who regularly interact with students, acknowledging that there will be costs in terms of renovation/reassignment/re-purposing of space and inconvenience to those changing/losing accustomed space, including classrooms, co-curricular and performance venues, health and athletic training facilities, dining facilities, and residence halls.
  • Decisions about returning to campus this fall will, wherever and to whatever extent possible, acknowledge that policies enacted in response to Covid-19 are specific to its effect on campus health and safety and must be revisited as new information about health and safety becomes available.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value the return to play for athletics, acknowledging concerns that there are risks that accrue to athletic participation that do not accrue to other co-curricular activities.
  • Decisions for returning to campus will acknowledge the importance of access to student services and educational opportunities beyond academics, including counseling, health services, career development, and civic engagement.

Academics

  • Decisions for returning to campus will value having coursework that is designed in advance to prepare for the possibility that some students may be unable to return to campus, with the acknowledgement that this entails additional work on the part of faculty, academic support staff, and T&I.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value in-person and physically distanced classes that follow current public health guidelines with the understanding that there will be an effect on class size and schedules
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value pathways for all students to progress toward graduation in four years.
  • Decisions for returning to campus will acknowledge the importance of offering courses required for majors (and minors) such that students will be able to graduate on time, acknowledging that this may make resources, space, facilities, and scheduling options less available for courses not specifically required.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value the communal experience of live creative arts and other co-curricular events while recognizing the necessity for reasonable safety protocols and new formats.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value flexibility for faculty and staff who are sick, immuno-compromised, or quarantined.

Finances

  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value maintaining a quality educational experience and the long-term health and wellbeing of our community while acknowledging potential short-term financial losses.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value best available scientific evidence while acknowledging that we will face pressures—emotional, political or from decisions made by other institutions.
  • Decisions for returning to campus this fall will value equity, burden-sharing, and out-of-the-box thinking on financial matters even over traditional considerations and practices.
  • We acknowledge that there will be a limit to the size of the investment/short-term losses that can be made and that trade-offs must be considered in the context of sound fiscal management.