Fall family weekend approaches, other visitors still barred from campus

By Carly McAdam

Pia Contreras

Although families will begin arriving at Middlebury this weekend, the college’s Covid-19 guidelines for the fall semester still prohibit students from hosting visitors. Sports recruits, prospective students, and family members arriving for Fall Family Weekend are allowed on campus, as well as approved speakers and performers. The school has set vaccination requirements and safety procedures for approved visitors.  

In an email to students on Aug. 13, Chief Health Officer and College Physician Mark Peluso and Vice President for Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka wrote that “visitors are [only] allowed on campus with departmental permission and for approved events or programs.” 

According to the same email, all visitors are required to have received the Covid-19 vaccine unless they have a valid religious or medical exemption and continue to wear face coverings indoors.

The college considers Fall Family Weekend a sanctioned school event and will welcome families from across the country on Oct. 8 to 10. Chief Health Officer Mark Peluso and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said Fall Family Weekend, admissions tours and recruiting trips should be handled differently from unapproved visitors hosted by students on campus.

While Fall Family Weekend activities will also take place outdoors whenever possible, campus buildings, including residential halls, will still be open to families.

“Fall Family Weekend, campus tours and athletic activities are all organized events with specific oversight and mitigation measures in place, and coordinated through various departments on campus. This is different from other guests visiting campus,” Peluso and Doucet wrote in an email to The Campus.

Student guests often stay overnight in dorms or other college housing, which increases risk of Covid-19 transmission, according to Peluso and Doucet. 

“This is among the primary reasons we have made a distinction between organized events and student visitors in our policies,” they said.

This fall, sports teams are also permitted to invite prospective athletes to campus for in-person recruiting visits, but recruits are not approved to stay overnight. The athletics department continues to monitor the status of Covid-19 cases and is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“The Athletics Department organizes and manages their visits and there is a process for allowing [prospective athletes] on campus,” Peluso and Doucet said. “Prospective student athletes are only on campus briefly and do not stay overnight.”

Peluso and Doucet also said that it is appropriate for certain special guests to be allowed on campus for approved events at this time. 

Experts who give lectures or participate in panels, guest speakers who visit a class, and performers are just some of the guests who take part in approved events or programs,” they said. “Their presence enhances the educational experience of our students.”

Peluso feels that the Delta variant and the fact that children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated still warrant a cautious approach to Covid-19 guidelines at this time.

“As we transition from a pandemic situation to a more endemic situation, we expect mitigation measures to loosen even further, but it is not an on-off switch,” Peluso said. “We are still actively managing visitors, events and other situations.”