Good morning, Monks!
Two more days until the beginning of a new school year. While we don’t know much about what this semester, or year, holds for us, we know that it starts in two days. Around the country, as their students return, colleges and universities are putting their pandemic plans to work.
Until now, these plans have been fairly abstract, lots of Google Docs being sent around, firming up protocols through Zoom calls, confirming testing strategies, and educating our students and workforce about how it’s all going to go.
We’re no different. Months in the making, our pandemic response team finalized our approach to COVID-19 surveillance testing and spit-shined the evaluation tool we’ll use throughout the semester to gauge the presence and risk of community transition of the virus.
On Monday, it’ll be on our website, and updated daily. We want everyone in our community, including our parents and alumni, to know where things stand in real-time.
However, our approach (and, really, any college’s approach) can have the bells and whistles, the rigorous testing, the isolation housing, and the masks – but it ultimately relies on the community’s trust in our plan, and in one another.
It’s a two-way street.
We want the students and their families, and our co-workers on the College staff and faculty, to trust our process. I’ve shortened this in student leader training, and in passing, to just saying “TTP”. To trust the work that’s gone into making the campus as safe as we think it can be, understanding that we’ll have to change things up, like, all the time, if necessary.
We also need to trust our students, faculty, and staff to make healthy choices – every day. Across the country, deans of students and presidents are sending stern, sometimes even nasty, communications to their students for violating campus policies in the first days of this new year. I know how they feel. I sent out a note, (I hope without the nastiness) to our students last week, asking for their partnership, their cooperation, and their hard work – because it is hard work. Many of us, myself included, were college students once (or, twice).
As I hit send on my note to students, I knew what I was asking for was going to be difficult.
I can’t imagine how hard it would be for college students not to attend large campus gatherings (like Bingo), not to whisper to a friend across a small bistro table over coffee about an exciting new relationship, not to play or watch, college sports as you expected. Or even not being able to pack into a sweaty off-campus basement while DJ Kool blares out of a random speaker overhead, likely permanently, and blissfully, altering my hearing. (or was that just my experience?)
But, we’re going to have to, if we want to remain together. And what’s better than that?
The point is, while I’m confident in our approach, and I’m confident in our students, staff, and faculty – there’s so much uncertainty about what’s in store for us. Whatever lies ahead, as we have over the past several months, we’ll face it together.
I’m guessing our new students won’t remember all this, waking up after their first night at College – nor will our returning students putting the final touches on what they need to do before Monday. But, when there’s doubt – remember to “TTP”!
Enjoy your Saturday everyone. See you real soon.
Matt Goodwin is the Dean of Students at Saint Joseph’s College.
Along with a team of trusting the process Campus Life professionals in the areas of Student Engagement & Residential Living, Counseling Center, Health & Wellness Center, Campus Safety, and the Mercy Center, Campus Life supports students’ holistic personal development, learning, and empowerment in service to a global community.