Date: January 20, 2021
From: Michael S. Roth
Subject: New Year, New Semester
It’s a new year, or so we’ve been told. The pandemic continues to rage, as does the intensity of focus on the baffling words and deeds of the former president. But it is a new year—there will be vaccines and concentrated efforts to address the recession, and here at Wesleyan we are preparing to welcome back students for the spring semester. Starting a few weeks later than usual, combined with careful testing and quarantine protocols around arrival, should allow us to start off on the right foot, despite the high positivity rates around the country.
Of course, we will have to be vigilant about contagion throughout the semester. The vaccine rollout is making progress, but we still have a long way to go. Everyone on campus will continue to wear masks when not in their own rooms; we will not allow visitors to campus; we will have to restrict travel and the size of social gatherings. But there will be plenty of ways that students, faculty and staff can interact safely, and we are confident that folks coming back can have a semester that is at once powerfully educational and full of new experiences of friendship and community building. At the same time, we will do our best to support those who are participating in classes and co-curricular activities remotely to ensure their experiences are as potent as possible.
We look forward to welcoming many faculty and staff back as well, and are grateful to those who remained on campus these past few months working hard to prepare for students’ return and to support those who never left.
As in the fall, we will continue with regular surveillance testing of everyone on campus, and we will have the capacity for supportive isolation and contact tracing. We will provide opportunities for athletic skill-building and training, although it seems unlikely there will be regular NESCAC competition this term. We will also provide opportunities for artistic practice that is safe and meaningful, and we look forward to seeing performances either virtually or in COVID-conscious outdoor spaces. The pandemic won’t stop us from making discoveries about ourselves and the world while we are together on campus.
Like many of my colleagues on the faculty, I’ve been preparing for the class I’m teaching in the spring. We will begin the first two weeks online as students complete their initial quarantine, and then we will be meeting in person. As in so many classes, we will find ways to translate what we are learning in the classroom into how we want to live on campus and beyond. There will be new challenges in the coming term, but given our experience in the fall, I am confident that we will be able to meet them. Of course, I am really looking forward to when we can interact—students, teachers and staff—without worry about contagion.
With warm regards on a cold New England day,
Michael S. Roth ’78