Faculty and Staff,
It’s hard to believe that it has been eight months since COVID-19 began to fundamentally disrupt our lives. Some days it feels like yesterday and other days it feels like it’s been years. When you add five named storms that affected all nine of our universities, devastated McNeese, and displaced thousands of students, faculty, and staff; a season of heightened social unrest; and a polarizing presidential election, 2020 will not soon be forgotten. The challenges we have faced collectively: fear of the unknown, a reimagining of our approach to learning and operations, and even the disagreements on that approach will ultimately make us stronger as people, as universities, and as a system.
Today, I come to you out of deep appreciation for the adaptability and dedication you have displayed this semester. When we developed plans for the fall, we relied on the prevailing science to create the safest environments for our faculty, staff, and students. Of course human behavior is the primary and least controllable factor in containing the spread of COVID-19. Diligence from student services leadership; logistical acrobatics performed by facilities staff, faculty, and countless others; and widespread compliance with restrictions by students has proven mostly effective. That said, we recognize there are numerous opportunities to improve our learning environments and our business settings as our work continues through this health crisis. Any of our success this term is owed to your dedication to the mission of learning, not allowing even the adversity of a global pandemic to prevent you from educating 92,000 students.
During the next few weeks, we will work collaboratively with university leaders to evaluate our existing mitigation efforts and accommodations for faculty, staff, and students to identify ways to improve. We will make any necessary adjustments to our systemic guidelines and university practices based on those evaluations. While we fully expect to be dealing with COVID-19 for at least the next semester, I am optimistic that a return to near-normal operations is in the foreseeable future. Promising vaccine developments, improved therapeutics, and rapidly advancing testing options are a welcome source of hope.
Many of our institutions are wrapping on-campus activities this week based on forecasts this summer that the fall would bring a surge of infections. As we are seeing statewide, those projections were accurate. In the coming weeks, I encourage you to stay vigilant in your efforts to protect yourself and those around you. Wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, and maintaining appropriate social distancing work in a remarkably effective way. Continuing these practices will help ensure the safety of your community and improve our likelihood of a successful spring.
Throughout the holiday season, I hope you have time to rest and reflect on all you have accomplished in this exceedingly challenging year. Thank you for your service to the Universities of Louisiana. I hope you will recognize your part in the accomplishments of our students and carry that pride with you until we find ourselves in less complicated times.
For your future. For our future.