April 17, 2020

Letter from President Wiewel, April 17

“The contagion of hope.” On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis used this phrase in his address to an empty St. Peter’s Basilica. It resonates with me in multiple ways.

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

“The contagion of hope.” On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis used this phrase in his address to an empty St. Peter’s Basilica. It resonates with me in multiple ways.

I’m writing to you from a mostly empty campus, and I seek to offer hope, even as I know many of you are struggling. Students are struggling with learning online and missing their friends; faculty are working with technologies they never thought they’d have to use exclusively; and all of us are figuring out how to live more or less confined to our homes. We are working online, which is hard enough, or not working at all, which is worse. We worry about our own health–every cough a possible warning. And we worry about the health of family and friends, and the damage all of this is doing to our communities, the nation, and the world.

And yet, there are signs of hope. A relative of mine is recovering after three weeks of COVID-19, and her daughter seems to have escaped with a very minor case. The curve is flattening on the West Coast and seems to be at least bending in some of the worst-hit places like New York.

The federal government’s CARES Act will provide relief, albeit slowly, to many people. For Lewis & Clark, it will provide funds that we will use to help students with pandemic-related expenses, as well as to offset some of the direct expenses the college itself has borne. Federal funds also make it possible to keep most employees financially whole even as we adjust working hours to reflect changed workloads over the next several months. We plan to be open this fall for in-person classes, but we’re also anticipating the possibility of lower enrollment. We prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.

Last week I wrote about the “new normal,” how we are getting used to operating in new ways, for better or worse. I would love to hear from you about how you are navigating this new normal. Whether you are a student, faculty, staff, graduate, or friend of the college: What is it like for you to study or work at home? How have you adjusted? What has been the hardest? What has been enjoyable? What is the first thing you are going to do when restrictions are lifted?

If you are willing, please share your stories by sending them to LCtogether@lclark.edu. I will share some of them in future messages, and also hope to use them to understand better how the college can continue to be supportive to everyone.

I thank all of you for your continued hard work and resilience. I know we are not able to accommodate every need, or customize all of our programs and messages to each individual situation. We try very hard to be as flexible as possible, while safeguarding the long-term economic health and future of the college. We will get through this, and I look forward to being back on campus with many of you soon.

In the meantime, if you have the chance, I suggest you check out our Festival of Scholars and Artists, which is happening today and features both virtual presentations and live panels in what has become a signature event for students and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Wim Wiewel