Thirty-four years ago this fall, I began my academic life as an assistant professor of economics. Over those years, the start of fall classes has been my favorite time on campus (commencement being a close second). This fall, however, seems bittersweet, as we greet new students and new colleagues onto a campus that feels much different than it did just one year ago.
The pandemic continues to affect the way that we live and work. Many of you have devoted your expertise and time this summer to help us prepare for the fall semester; others have begun research or artistic projects that will help us consider, understand and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Over the summer, more than 400 faculty members participated in workshops centered around remote teaching and learning. Despite the pandemic, we remain focused on the health and well-being of our community, the success of our students, and the continuation of our research, artistry and engagement missions.
As you start classes and continue your activities on campus, I am especially mindful of your health and well-being, and I encourage you to take care of yourselves and each other. Please make use of the resources that we offer and reach out to your colleagues. I want to remind and assure you that faculty members and graduate teaching assistants are not required to teach in person and have the flexibility to move courses to fully remote at any point in the semester, with notification to the chair of the department, without fear of retaliation. Given that many of the modality choices were made in early summer, it is certainly understandable that you might want to revisit your decision given the progression of the pandemic and the experiences of other universities that reopened before us.
This summer, we again witnessed the harsh realities of systemic racism and the effect that it has on our students, colleagues, friends, neighbors and communities. We have been called to action. As President Freeman shared in her August message, the work ahead of us is hard and overdue. Many of you have raised your voices asking for change; you have also raised your hands, ready to collaborate with others across campus to enact that change. The themes that have been brought to the forefront include ideas directly relevant to academic affairs and the long-term success of our BIPOC faculty members, staff and students. I am energized by the expectation that we will begin this work together this fall.
While the feel of the campus might be different, I am no less excited for the start of our fall semester. Like other universities across the country, we’re charting new territory as we navigate the pandemic. We’re also galvanized by the challenges ahead of us as we strive to be an anti-racist institution and live up to our mission, vision and values. I know there will be bumps along the way, but I’ve witnessed firsthand the resilience and determination of our community. We have laid a strong foundation for this work, and I’m confident we’ll make progress on our efforts this year. And we will do so with kindness, patience and grace.
Executive Vice President and Provost