I just finished my third week of teaching this semester, and I think we are falling into a rhythm of learning together — some of us, remote, some in class — as we navigate liberal education in a pandemic. Across the curriculum, I hear similar reports from colleagues and students. We need a healthy context in which to pursue our studies, and we are doing our best to provide that. So far we have run almost 15,000 tests on nearly 3,400 students and employees, and have had only 2 students and 3 employees test positive. While there are a handful of employees isolating or in quarantine, the student cases have cleared. We feel fortunate (and grateful) that the positivity rate on campus is well below CT as a whole.
We credit these extremely low positivity rates to our community’s careful adherence to all the safety guidelines we’ve put in place. I recognize that for students we were asking a lot with the campus-wide quarantine. We’re also grateful to all the students and families for avoiding gatherings for weeks prior to coming to campus, and for getting students tested shortly before arriving. This helped us to reduce the likelihood of someone unknowingly bringing COVID to campus.
As I wrote in a recent op-ed in Inside Higher Ed, in the absence of the federal government’s leadership in addressing this public health crisis, I believe that “bringing students back to properly run campuses — with frequent testing and careful housing and dining protocols — may well be healthier than leaving these young people to their own devices.” But that depends on our investment in public health measures and on cooperation from everyone who lives and works on our campus.
I know that our staff, faculty and students have embraced their collective responsibility to “protect one another for the semester to be safe enough.” We do this because we “understand that it is powerfully compelling to learn in an environment in which you can have informal discussions with people from diverse walks of life—amplifying the straightforward instruction from classes via serendipitous encounters, informal discussion and collaborative discovery.”
Of course, we have had our glitches. For the most part, this has been out of confusion or inattention, and situations have been corrected. We will work together to reduce lines or crowding, and to ensure that classes are running smoothly. Questions will come up based on one’s individual experience, and we will do our best to answer all inquiries promptly. The community safety guidelines contain useful information, and we will add to them as needed.
Thank you for everything you are doing to make Wesleyan a safe enough environment for a truly great education – in and outside the classroom!