President Jacobsen Confident in HWS Athletic Programs Amidst COVID-19

By Jaheim Javel Pierre ’25

Staff Writer

Upon arrival three years ago, President Joyce Jacobsen was impressed and excited about the activities and athletics programs at the Colleges. Jacobsen told the Herald she “enjoyed the activities fair” and she was “impressed by the level of student creativity that is expressed through the development of the variety of clubs on campus.” According to the president, the administration continues to support the clubs on campus as it is a crucial part of student life on the campus. 

As part of the residential college experience, the president reiterated the need of having a wide variety of programs to meets the needs of our diverse college community. Another way the administration has sought to improve the value of student life on campus is by increasing both the number of club sports and varsity sports on campus. This effort was made through complex economic analysis that resulted in the conclusion that the institution will marginally benefit from the additions of these athletic programs. 

Many competitor schools have increased their sports programs and it has worked thus far, and in fact, may be attracting students who have HWS as their first choice. The reduction in the number of sports programs offered at HWS was a decision that was made due to budgetary considerations in the 1990s. Women’s volleyball is one of the sports programs that is coming back to HWS, which was in progress before Jacobsen’s arrival. The women’s volleyball program was originally decided to be reintroduced in 2013 and through President Jacobsen’s leadership is finally going to be implemented in the upcoming school year.

Women’s volleyball is one of the most popular sports on college campuses. Jacobsen thinks it is a major barrier for students who want to come to the colleges but really love the sport which puts them into the unfortunate position of choosing between HWS and a school that allows them to play a sport they love. President Jacobsen also hopes the Colleges increase to a 10:1 faculty-to-student ratio from the current 9:1. Adding the additional athletic programs would allow for the increase without the bureaucratic and cost factors that normally hinder increasing the ratio. 

In comparison to schools like Cornell, Duke, Alfred University, and others who required a Covid-19 vaccine prior to enrollment, HWS was not as early to solidify a mandate. On August 2nd, a memo was sent out to members of the community regarding Covid-19, in that memo the apparent reasoning for a lack of vaccination mandate was “We also acknowledge that whether vaccination is encouraged or required, we will likely never reach a 100% vaccination rate due to medical and religious exemptions, as is the case for other vaccinations such as measles or mumps.” That policy was changed for students on August 23rd, and then for all members of the HWS community on August 30th.

President Jacobsen stated that these changes reflect constant communication with the New York State health authorities and real time New York state requirements and expectations. Additional mandates such as indoor masking reflect the recent Hero Act that Governor Hochul signed, which is true across the board for most schools the President said. 

With national Covid-19 rates going down, the president does not see an immediate threat from the virus hindering the activities nor the athletic programs at HWS. She explained that all sports teams have returned, and the fall sports at HWS have returned to playing mostly full season. The winter sports are already scheduled, and the coaches have been able to go out and recruit which are all bullish signs of a return to relative normalcy regarding the athletics programs offered at HWS.

The administration is committed to maintaining all the safety protocols to ensure safety for all members of the community. The president cites the favorable trajectory of the school’s activities and athletics programs amidst Covid-19 because the administration learned how to manage Covid-19 last spring. Despite the lack of vaccines, the spring season was successfully completed by following set protocols. “One of the major lessons that was learned from Covid-19,” said President Jacobsen, “was the importance of working with other schools from the area.”

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