COVID-19 Update - Facing Challenges Together
March 18, 2020
Close to mid-term in the spring semester, our campus is normally teeming with people in the early morning as students, faculty and staff go about their routines. As I made the short trip to the office this morning, campus was quiet with mostly empty parking lots and very little traffic.
As of today, March 18, our university is operating very differently than it was just last week due to the coronavirus that is now rapidly spreading around the world. Face-to-face classes have been canceled with faculty and students involved instead in remote instruction. On-campus residential students have been asked to move back home if possible, while those that need to remain will be accommodated but will face restrictions on services and visitation. Many staff members are remotely completing job assignments, while some “essential” staff members remain on duty on campus in order to provide important ancillary services.
As I have said in multiple meetings and conversations, nothing about any of this is optimal for anyone. Many faculty members did not plan to teach online classes; many staff did not sign up to work remotely; many “essential” staff would rather be at home, isolated from the virus, rather than be on campus taking care of vital university business; many students did not originally sign up for online classes; many residential students never imagined having to move back home in the middle of the semester; and many members of our campus community are dealing with mounting personal and family-related challenges because of the virus and related disruptions.
We are all working and operating in spaces outside our preferred comfort zones, and as I have said before, we are all going to have to moderate our expectations somewhat in order to get through this. Almost nothing is as we originally expected it to be, and as a result, we have to adapt and adjust to the reality in which we find ourselves. If it is any consolation, everybody everywhere is currently dealing with their own version of these challenges.
Again, I ask everyone to be patient, to respond to others in a calm and caring fashion, to stop and think about the fact that everything that is different right now is different for the reason that we all need to help preserve the health and safety of ourselves and our fellow citizens while still providing our students with the opportunity to continue making progress toward achieving their educational goals. This is very much a time to focus on the greater good.
I am very grateful to the members of our leadership team who are working long hard hours every day to analyze and interpret guidance coming from multiple sources and that changes hour by hour, in order to translate what is sometimes confusing or conflicting information into what we hope are coherent directives and advice that inform the actions of our people.
More than anything, I want to thank each of you for doing the best you can do in these difficult and uncertain circumstances. Having been a part of the faculty and administration at Southeastern for well over 30 years, I know many of you personally. As a result, I know first-hand how much you care about our students and your colleagues. I know that you care deeply about them as individuals, some of whom are struggling with the current turmoil and uncertainty. I have personally witnessed the compassion you have shown when we faced hurricanes, floods and other devastating emergencies. I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion once again.
Lions are commonly referred to as the “King of the Jungle” because they fear no other animal. I thank you all for being fearless Lions as we face these challenges together.
John L. Crain