For a Successful Spring Semester...

To Our Undergraduates:

Ten weeks after taking the fall’s last in-person classes, those on campus today return to lecture halls and labs, fitness facilities, the Tink—even Sears think[box].

As terrific as it is to see so many students here, we also are thinking of those of you learning remotely across the U.S. and around the world. We miss you and cannot wait for the moment we can welcome everyone back to campus.

For now, though, our focus is on protecting the health and safety of all students, staff and faculty this semester. We have written previously about our multi-pronged efforts to secure vaccine doses, as well as the weekly COVID-19 tests we require for anyone on campus—no matter how briefly.

Now it is time to remind you about your specific responsibilities—to one another, and to the faculty and staff with whom you interact. 

As you may recall, community COVID-19 cases were climbing so rapidly by mid-November that we had to enact a shelter-in-place protocol to try to slow the spread. The prevalence of the virus itself was part of the cause, but so too were poor decisions and violations of pandemic-related protocols—such as groups gathering for meals and watch parties, paying limited attention to masks or physical distancing.

As disappointing as those developments were, we also could appreciate the increasing desire for some semblance of “normal” social activities as the semester’s stresses accumulated. 

Unfortunately, some of you of you have started this semester behaving much like you finished the last one—and, in a few cases, taking even greater risks. 

Instead of following the shelter-in-place protocol in effect until today, several of you held small social gatherings in residence halls. Over the past week, the number of on-campus students in isolation increased seven-fold, and those in quarantine ballooned even more.

Ours is not the only campus witnessing such behavior. One southern university recently suspended six Greek chapters for COVID-19-related violations, while another in New England saw more positive cases in the past two weeks than during the entire fall semester. And then there is a Midwestern institution that is managing outbreaks across five off-campus residences.

To help avoid any of those outcomes and additional restrictions, I ask that you revisit our Community Commitment. Think about last spring when this community came together in so many ways. Keep that spirit of mutual support in mind as this week unfolds—and make choices that honor it. We are counting on you to do your part to keep our community safe so we all can have a wonderful semester.

Hopefully, next year will see all of us on campus having learned a lot about ourselves and how to build and sustain resilient and healthy communities.

Scott Cowen
Interim President