Dear students, faculty and staff,
To everyone returning to our campus this week, welcome back! We’ve missed you. And to our new first year Majors who comprise one of the largest incoming classes the college has seen in nearly a decade, welcome home. This is a special place where you belong, and I’m glad we are together again.
I wish, however, that the fall semester was beginning under better circumstances for our state and nation, but unfortunately the Delta variant of the COVID-19 pandemic has its grips on us all. As we look toward realizing the transformative experiences inherent in a Millsaps education, we also must realize that we all play a part in keeping one another well while we begin the work to promote our college mission of academic excellence and service to our community
The first step in promoting a healthy campus is for all of us to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Let me be clear: the executive staff — the senior leadership of the college — is pro-vaccine. Every member of the executive staff is fully vaccinated, and every member of the executive staff approved my sharing this information.
The COVID-19 response committee is also pro-vaccine. Committee members have worked throughout the summer to incentivize students to receive their vaccine through email, direct mail and social media. The college has repeatedly emailed its faculty and staff this summer recommending that our employees receive the vaccine, and I’ve made personal appeals on this count, urging people to think not just about themselves but about our community.
I know we can all agree that our goal is to create safe living and learning spaces on our campus and in our community. I believe we can also all agree that our mission as a liberal arts college is to prepare our students to think critically, logically and independently for a successful life after college. And I hope we can all understand that our future hinges on our ability to provide a high-quality education and to continue to increase our undergraduate and graduate enrollment—with the likelihood that 60% or more of our students will continue to come from two states, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Ultimately, as president of the college, I am charged with making decisions that are in the best interest of Millsaps. At this time, the college will continue to educate our community on the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and urge our students, faculty and staff to receive the vaccine, but we will not make vaccination a condition of employment or matriculation.
The college will provide free COVID-19 vaccinations in the Wesson Health Clinic for any interested student, faculty or staff member. No appointment is necessary. The first dose will be given August 23, 25 and 27; the second dose will be given September 20, 22 and 24. Times and other information will be sent to the community soon. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
If the first step in promoting a safe campus is being vaccinated, the second and vitally important step is wearing a face covering during indoor activities and outdoor events when in close proximity to others. Because of the resurgence of the coronavirus, we’ve made changes to some of our planned events that will mitigate the spread of the virus. But, we need everyone’s cooperation! Please adhere to our masking mandate and support the student life staff and other leaders on campus as we begin the year on a safe and positive note.
As the semester moves forward, the college will continue to thoughtfully engage the expertise of our partners at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi State Department of Health. We remain vigilant in staying current with the ever-changing recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And, we will continue to monitor all available dashboards, including active cases on campus, in Hinds County and in the State of Mississippi.
Updated guidelines and protocols for students, student athletes and employees can be found on millsaps.edu/coronavirus. The health decision trees for students and faculty/staff have been updated to reflect current Mississippi State Department of Health guidelines for colleges and universities. You can also keep up with the college’s fall health dashboard and all college communications by visiting the site.
I look forward to seeing you on campus soon. Until then, stay well.