As we prepare for the start of the next semester, we are mindful of the hopes and anxieties of students and their families. Vaccine distribution is finally picking up speed, promising better times ahead. On the other hand, the new variants of the virus seem to be more contagious, and this means we must be ever more vigilant about social distancing, mask wearing, frequent testing, contact tracing and supportive isolation.
I recently met with the presidents of the other NESCAC schools, and we have decided that given the current public health situation we cannot yet approve intercollegiate competition for this semester. Although it seems unlikely that we will have even a truncated season, we agreed to revisit the possibility of conference contests at the end of February. The NESCAC decision will come as a disappointment to many who have worked long and hard for the chance to compete, and I understand their frustration. Be that as it may, the fact that some athletes have asked about their spring seasons should not be an occasion for others to cast aspersions or crude stereotypes. The Wesleyan community is a place for all of us to pursue activities through which we develop as individuals and as members of groups or teams. Like so many Wesleyans, I would love to watch our athletes compete, as I would be delighted to see our musicians play and our actors perform. We all will have to wait until it is safe enough to do so.
We have never believed we could eliminate all risk from campus, but we do believe we can create an environment in which students can safely thrive. That means an environment in which they can pursue their education, but also one in which they can develop lifelong friendships and engage with community. Prohibitions against large parties does not mean that students can’t socialize; social distancing does not mean that people don’t find ways to connect. We want to keep our COVID positivity rates as low as possible, but we also want to make the campus experience as vital as possible.
We want Wesleyan students to learn and to thrive, not just to test negative for COVID. We can achieve all three if we work together.