March 26, 2020

President Wiewel: On Palatine Hill, March 26, 2020

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

We’re all learning.

Because we’re not seeing each other as frequently–or at least not in person–I plan to share with you on a weekly basis what’s happening with the Lewis & Clark community. Circumstances continue to change rapidly, of course, so please continue to check your email and the COVID-19 FAQ, as well as the Source and Bark.

I hope that each of you has at least found some opportunities to relax during Spring Break, as we adjust and find new ways and new routines, sometimes in close quarters with families and pets. Maybe you’ve found moments of comfort in jigsaw puzzles or home cooking or some other meditative activity that often seems just out of reach during routine times.

Last week, before Spring Break began, I was heartened by many of the conversations I had with students. I was impressed by their resilience in the face of the upending of normal life. And I was encouraged to hear how they are approaching the transition to online education and how the faculty are rising to the challenge to provide a high quality experience while navigating the changes in their own lives. I heard multiple times how stressful the switch to online learning could be, especially while some were also making plans to move home. But I also heard that these virtual meeting spaces were a source of support and stability for both student and teacher. They have created new opportunities for collaboration and exploration. The community we build at Lewis & Clark persists even when we are dispersed.

We now have about 200 undergraduate students in residence on campus and expect that number to drop a bit more over the coming days. Staying on campus will be difficult, as many of our facilities cannot be accessed in person, and the Oregon Governor’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” directives make congregating essentially impossible. But we will, of course, continue to provide vital services for all those who need them.

Our Graduate School of Education and Counseling has creatively and nimbly determined how to provide professional experiences for students who are working toward licensure in fields that are all about person-to-person interaction, sustaining the connection between counselors and clients and teachers with their students, across the divides created by the current crisis.

Admissions and financial aid teams in all three schools continue to be forward-thinking in their approach to providing information and resources to prospective students and their families. I am grateful for their ability to adapt the very important work they do. I look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks as we get a sense of what our new incoming classes may look like.

Last week, it was reaffirming to learn that the Law School’s Environmental Law program was once again ranked number one in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Our program has been in the first or second spot in the US News rankings for some 25 years.

My thanks again to everyone who is working hard at Lewis & Clark to provide for our students and community. I want to especially note the efforts of Bon Appetit, Skyline, and our Facilities, IT, Student Life, and Health and Wellness teams.

I also want to recognize our Office of Overseas and Off-Campus Programs for their efforts to get our students home from across the globe. All of the spring program students are back home or wherever they wished to be, and they are continuing academic coursework remotely. The fast-moving closures of programs and borders were a real challenge. Faculty leaders and students and their families were resilient and resourceful and joined in exhausting all avenues to make it back home. A small slice of the work was chronicled in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

And I want to applaud the student-journalists of The Pioneer Log, which dedicated its most recent issue to chronicling how the Palatine Hill community responded and adapted to the fast-shifting reality. They truly captured the moment for the benefit of history and future generations of Lewis & Clark students.

If you weren’t already aware, know that we have launched a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Response Fund. This fund provides support for current students in all three of our schools, and helps with Lewis & Clark’s unexpected costs in these unprecedented circumstances. One of our amazing trustees has already seeded this fund with generous support. Gifts of all sizes are welcome and create the kind of positive impact that is crucial in this challenging time. Donations can be made online here.

For now, I’d like to leave you with something shared this week by Associate Professor of Theatre Rebecca Lingafelter. Alice and I had a chance to catch the final performance of the department’s production of Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi. Although the run was cut short, the show was filmed and can be viewed here. Nearly 50 students were involved in the production in one way or another.

As we all continue to navigate uncharted waters, I am reminded, as I’m sure many of you are, of the brilliance, passion, and resilience of our students, staff, and faculty. They continue to inspire me and give me hope.

Thank you for all you do as a part of this dynamic community.


Wim Wiewel