March 17 Message to Faculty/Staff: Losses, Reminders...and Hope

To Our Faculty and Staff:

“Everyone is experiencing some form of grief.”

The comment, said during this morning’s COVID-19 leadership team meeting, made us pause.

Amid all of our collective plans and preparations, off-campus moves and ramp-up for remote learning, we’ve had little time to feel it—but it is there, everywhere.

Nothing is as expected this week. No “welcome back” greetings as classes resume. No athletic contests, performances, conference presentations and other activities anticipated for months. No school (and soon, daycare) to allow full focus on work. The list of losses is almost endless.

We appreciate that they are necessary to try to limit far greater anguish and sorrow. But still, it is all hard.

Worse, we see that the changes made now will be with us for months—and their consequences, far longer. And we don’t know the end date for either.

Some react to loss with anger. Some with denial. And others, with inspiring compassion. 

This morning, for example, we heard about medical students arriving early for training to assist with calls to hospitals. Development staff who volunteered to help pack academic materials for shipping to students who couldn’t get back to campus. And, yesterday, the dozens of faculty pitching in to help their colleagues adapt to remote-learning technology.

Those moments bring hope. They also offer reminders.

Yes, to varying degrees, we are all grieving. We have good reason to be disappointed, frustrated, scared—and sad.

But we also have people on this campus—faculty, staff, students and others—whom we admire. People we trust to do the right thing, for the right reason. People we know who will listen to us vent, and keep our comments confidential. Who make us laugh, keep us calm, and invariably make our loads feel so much lighter.

With their help, we will get through this trying time. We will recover what we can, and also build anew. We are a community, and—as long as we keep each other in mind—we will emerge as an even better one.

Barbara R. Snyder

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President