Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Year Like No Other


A Year Like No Other


At Susquehanna University, we are fortunate to have completed the first two weeks of the Fall 2020 semester with no positive cases of COVID-19 on our campus. Much can be attributed to careful, rigorous planning and a campus community committed to shared success, but we have also been lucky.


As Branch Rickey said, “Luck is the residue of design.”[1]


Here is a link to a list of many of the actions we have made. These are some highlights:

·      Waste-water from residence hall is being tested every 2 days.

·      All students and employees are being tested before returning to campus.

·      We have been bringing students back to campus in stages to provide an opportunity to adapt to new processes with fewer people.

o   Student leaders returned first

o   First-years followed

o   Seniors arrived this weekend (5 and 6 September)

o   Remaining students will arrive two weeks later.

·      Just over 300 students have elected to take their courses remotely this semester, and students with delayed returns to campus began the semester remotely. Therefore, most classes are being offered as hybrids, combining in-person and online modes of instruction.

·      Teaching spaces have been reduced to 40% of their traditional capacities.

·      New air-filtering systems have been installed, and residence-hall rooms with 2 occupants have UV air-purifiers.

·      Every building has been heavily labeled to maintain socially-distanced navigation.

·      We have an oversight group with broad collaborative expertise, including Dave Richard, Professor of Biology, to be sure we are applying the appropriate scientific analysis to our efforts.


Our goal is to keep our campus safe, and to use this year like no other as an object lesson for a liberal education.


The university’s learning goals include the development of an integrated set of intellectual skills to help students:

·      Think creatively and critically to analyze issues, consider solutions, and make effective decisions;

·      Incorporate methods of analysis from a broad range of academic disciplines to understand and explore conflict, and solve problems;

·      Engage effectively with others through gathering, evaluating, synthesizing, and articulating information to generate informed opinions and arguments through multiple avenues; and

·      Work effectively within a team, function with professional and digital competency, and understand and navigate problems that often elicit complex and ambiguous responses.


We continue to evaluate the best information to make data-informed decisions to mitigate the risk of infection on campus. Those data have come from a wide range of disciplines with the sciences and public health as the core. We have all engaged in a social contract committing to work collectively to keep each other safe and healthy.


Our national failure to successfully control the spread of COVID-19 has been the result of not being able to navigate an objective path through the current bedlam of complex and ambiguous responses to the pandemic. The democratization of ideas has rendered sages and fools to equal status, and we must strive to help our students to discern the difference.


We may have never had a richer opportunity for deep learning.


I have been asking students how their classes are going. They share frustrations about the experiences that are not possible this year, and then they say, “But I am learning so much more.”


Edward Gibbon said, “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” This year is a lesson in navigation.


We are all in the most elaborate laboratory course in resilience and flexibility imaginable. Science, technology, social sciences, the arts, and humanities are all being pulled into play as we work together to find solutions to an infinitely complex web of problems.


What could be a better curriculum than that?




[1] quoted in Sporting News, 21 February 1946



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