As we near the midpoint of the semester, it’s time to pause and acknowledge what we have accomplished as a community.
In a normal semester, it would be enough to acknowledge that classes are going smoothly, students are learning and research is moving forward. But this isn’t a normal semester, and simply saying “thank you” doesn’t begin to cover all of the additional efforts you have made to fulfill our mission during a pandemic.
We prepared for this unconventional semester carefully, even though we understood it would be impossible to account for every twist and turn that might come our way. We knew we would have to be firm in our safety standards yet fluid in our plan. We knew to expect the unexpected.
And here we are, in the eighth week of the semester. Courses are on track, offices are open, services are accessible and we are going about our work. It’s not routine, but it’s happening. We are here because you found innovative ways to learn, teach and work while wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing hands and following other safety protocols. We are here because you care about the safety of those around you.
While it’s far too early to declare victory over fall 2020, I think we need to take a moment to give ourselves – and each other – credit for getting where we are today. Thank yourself. Thank your fellow faculty, staff and students. Take a moment to celebrate being part of this caring community called SIU.
We began the semester with a lot of uncertainty. People had conflicting views about what we should do, and we were all reading a lot of inconsistent advice about best practices for staying safe. We heard skepticism, fear and concern.
None of that has changed. We still experience uncertainty and concern. The difference is that we have demonstrated that we can move forward together. We have put our trust in each other, and it has paid off.
Now we must persevere. We can’t relax because things seem to be going well. It takes only one person without a mask, one gathering without social distancing, one individual with symptoms who doesn’t get tested or follow directives of a health professional – and the second half of the semester can look very different from the first.
There are a lot of people who deserve special acknowledgement, but I am afraid that if I start naming names I will leave someone out. From our faculty and staff to our students, everyone has put forth exceptional effort. Our alumni and donors have stepped forward to support students through the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund.
Our community partners, including the Jackson County Health Department, Southern Illinois Healthcare and the City of Carbondale, have been extraordinarily collaborative and supportive. And there are many, many individuals who have been working tirelessly since March – at all hours of every day – developing and implementing plans to keep our community safe.
We are surrounded by heroes. Please thank yourselves — but also take time today to thank someone else. Maybe there’s a faculty member, an academic advisor, a nurse, a building service worker or a resident assistant who could use a lift today by hearing a caring message of “thanks for what you do.” After all, we’re in this together.