March 25, 2020
Words from Waller: “Not the spring break we imagined”
I know this is not the spring break any of us imagined even a month ago. Most of us are now subject to “stay at home” orders at a time of the year when we are primed to travel and ready to enjoy the early signs of spring. I hope all of you are staying safe and well, and finding ways to connect with your families, each other, and the broader world. The invisibility of the virus and the delay of symptoms can make it seem in the moment that the sacrifices of “social distancing” are pointless, as both high-profile cases and grim statistics continue to pile up. Keep faith in the value of our collective commitment to these measures. We will never know which lives were saved or which suffering was avoided, but we will break the spread of this pandemic.
As of yesterday, our on-campus student population numbers only about a third of what it was two weeks ago. Among those still here are many international students as well as other students without good alternative options so I am glad we made the decision to keep the residence halls open despite the challenges and expenses involved. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the many essential staff who continue to come to work, managing their own family and personal concerns, to care for our students: our facilities, grounds and housekeeping teams who look after our campus; the Bon Appetit employees who keep everyone fed; the student affairs staff who attend to their health and well-being; the campus safety staff who watch out for their safety; and the many others who continue to keep the WIFI alive, the mail delivered, and the rest of Willamette’s infrastructure running. The “old historic temple” may appear quiet and nearly empty, but its heart is beating strongly.
For now, the Willamette community is spread to the four winds. Next week, classes will resume in their unfamiliar distance-mediated formats, thanks to the quick work of faculty who are working hard to maintain the best aspects of our intense, personalized academic programs in this temporarily disrupted world. In each of our schools, admissions staff continue to find creative ways to connect future students to a university they cannot visit, and each day we hear the excitement from students joining the class of 2024.
That, more than anything, is the best reminder that this dark season, the hardest spring Willamette has ever faced, will end. Our classrooms will once again be filled, along with our playing fields and art studios and labs and concert halls.
Until then, Bearcats, know that it is OK to grieve what has been lost and to miss distant friends. Stay in (virtual) community and take care of yourselves and especially of each other. Our motto can now, as always, be your guide:
Non nobis solum nati sumus,