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Campus News / News

A Midterm Message from The Provost

10/15/2020 1:36 pm

Dear students, faculty, and staff:

I have this reoccurring dream where I am driving on a highway and enter a turn too fast.  I start to lose control of the car and go off the road.  It is often open grass, a field, or a large open ditch.  I wake up before I hit anything.  I am having it more often as of late. 

It is not too hard to interpret.  Life moves fast and before we know it we are forced to pivot but momentum makes it difficult to change course.  Sometimes that momentum is shear force.  Kinetic energy.  Other times that momentum is years of behavior and stagnancy that we have come to see as normal and inevitable.  And other times the curve ahead of us is simply and completely unexpected. 

Whatever the case, 2020 has provided its share, one might even say plethora (if this word does not make you smile, you need to go right home and watch The Three Amigos), of unexpected turns.  And one unexpected turn that is quite welcome is that we have made it to midterms and are still on campus!

Realizing that milestone, in just the last two days I sat down with both faculty leadership and student leadership to check in.  To hear their stories.  In both cases, the level of stress and concern was palpable. Students and faculty alike stressed over what feels like double the work for same result.  They expressed concern as to how the semester will play out and what to expect for the spring.  

And here is the thing: there is no way of knowing.  It is very likely that we may get to the point of finally feeling as though all is moving along only to look up and once again see a fast approaching curve that we feel unprepared to navigate.  There is simply no way to get around that reality. 

But here is another thing: we are here.  In school.  In session.  Teaching.  Learning.  We are at the midpoint.  And the opportunity exists for all of us to look inward, readjust, and continue to navigate those turns as best we can, as well as learn from those previous turns that had us scrambling, hearts racing, waiting for a paved and familiar road on which to return. 

And I imagine such navigation will go better if we are direct with one-another.  If we not only consider but also inquire directly as to one-another’s perspectives and positions.  I imagine that we will be better served by seeking solutions and working together rather than giving in to the very understandable yet unproductive path of complaining and worrying about what we cannot control.  The turns will come, at times unannounced.  And we may have to simply accept that we will be driving a bit out of control in a ditch or field prior to finding the road once again.

We jumped into last half of last spring with nary a week’s notice.  We had summer to prepare for this fall – yet consider that we were preparing for something completely unknown and unpredictable.  We did some things well.  Some things not so well.  Let us learn so we can do better the second half of this semester.  Let us learn so we can do even better in the spring.  But this only happens if we are direct and present and respectful with one-another.

So turn on your video feed when on Zoom if feasible.  Increase personal interaction when possible.  Continue to spread grace to one-another.  Move beyond the temptation to simply decry how difficult it all is – rather, work with one-another to remind ourselves that while the difficulty will not end, while the challenges will not cease to arise, that we are fortunate to not only have one-another, but we are also fortunate to be here. 

And unlike so many in our country, in our city, and even in our families, we are working.  We are attending school.  We are learning.  We are living.  And that is a beautiful thing.  Just recall that retaining and nourishing beautiful things often includes difficulty, uncertainty, and hard work.   And all three of those traits are better done together. 

Peace.  Best.  Smile.  Later.  Sincerely.  Live Long and Prosper.  (or really any sign-off of your choice),

Provost Perry