Friday, March 13, 2020

Character is Formed in the World’s Torrent

Character is Formed in the World’s Torrent[1]

Covid-19 has provided a reminder on our campus of the profound value of a liberal arts education. We teach our students to navigate difficult decisions with many thorny variables and specters of the unknown. This is what members of our campus community and leaders of organizations across the nation and around the world have been facing as the pandemic spreads and concern rises.

Science, logistics, ethics, and economics all come into play in each conversation, and each next step is found somewhere in the interstices between them all. What has struck me on our campus is that each meeting has taken the form of a seminar. I regularly tell students and their families that we learn best in community, and we have been living that maxim as we negotiate uncharted challenges together.

There are a number of students already on campus for whom travel home is problematic, so we will remain their home away from home. Groups of faculty and staff are making sure everyone remains well-fed and safe. That includes our colleagues as well as our students.

I have been so proud of my colleagues across the Susquehanna campus for their spirit of collaboration and their collective commitment to the health and safety of our students and each other. They have been equally committed to sustaining the education of our students through a yet undefined period of disruption.

At present, we have extended our spring break by a week to allow time for adequate planning and preparation for alternate modes of instruction. We will resume classes one week from now. For students who elect not to return to campus, online options will be available. If we need to suspend face-to-face instruction for some period of time, we will be prepared for that. All students will have the opportunity to complete their courses and their degrees on schedule.

Applied coursework will involve varied and special challenges, but our remarkably creative faculty and resilient students will find ingenious solutions. That’s what a liberal education prepares us to do. We learn to untie Gordian knots, and piloting through our current obstacles is an object lesson in applied ingenuity.

Goethe wrote that character is formed in the world’s torrent. It is certainly revealed by the actions taken in torrential times, and the character of this great university community could not be more admirable.

In these challenging times, I wish everyone could be surrounded by as thoughtful and compassionate a community as thrives at Susquehanna.

[1] Goethe: Torquato Tasso, I, ii.


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