May 21, 2020

Letter from President Wiewel, May 21

We’ve reached a turning point, a time of natural transition from a semester as far from routine as most of us could imagine…

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

We’ve reached a turning point, a time of natural transition from a semester as far from routine as most of us could imagine. Today we are recording the commencement ceremony for the Graduate School of Education and Counseling that will be shared online at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday, June 7. The College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony was broadcast on May 9 and featured terrific speeches by Zafar Ali, a double major in political science and economics from Pakistan; Asia Wooten, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Eugene, Oregon; and honorary degree recipient Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation.

No doubt, our graduates are facing a challenging time this summer, as many jobs, internships, and other opportunities have been put on hold. Our Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership recently invited alumni and friends to write messages of resilience to graduating and current students. Many of the responses will resonate for our broader community as well:

I hope that you’ve come to realize how resilient and adaptable you are, realize how strong the connections are that you’ve made, and realize how—although it may not feel this way quite yet—you have it in you to create lasting positive change. I hope you go out into this uncertain world with the certainty that you can help to re-shape it into the world you want to live in. I sincerely believe you can. —Raiven Greenberg BA ’17

LC students make the world a better place—whether that’s from home, on campus, or around the world. The perseverance that gets us through this is the same perseverance that will make the world a better place. —Heidi Hu BS ’85, Trustee

I see in my own daughter how the education at Lewis & Clark and its wonderful professors have helped you grow and spread your authentic wings and that is a beautiful thing. Take the time to be with your sadness when it arises. We are here for you too when the future is uncertain. Much love! —Carole Mower, Parent

Continuing students, if you need help with some of the hardship and financial strain experienced as a result of COVID-19 disruption during the spring semester and summer terms, please consider applying for emergency funding if you haven’t already. In addition to CARES Act funding, we’ve been supported in this effort by generous donors. Similarly, as we approach the end of our fiscal year, May 31, I want to highlight a fundraising challenge that includes a 5:1 match from some of our trustees for gifts made by alumni. Thank you to all who are helping to meet the needs of our community.

We’ve now turned our full attention to the planning for fall that began in the early days of the pandemic. I am part of the Higher Education Coordinating Committee working group, assembled by Governor Kate Brown JD ’85, that is developing protocols for opening colleges and universities. Although Oregon has been doing quite well with flattening the curve—actually experiencing fewer deaths than normal in the seven weeks ending April 25—we know that life will not return to normal quickly or easily.

Based on current trends in Oregon, we anticipate moving into Phase 1 of our reopening sometime in June. If trends continue, we would move into Phase 2 as soon as three weeks later, allowing us to resume in-person classes and to open some buildings and facilities with distancing restrictions and other guidelines in place. We will share with you plans and protocols as we complete them. One thing we’ve all learned during these last few months is not to get too attached to any one course of action, so we’re devising a variety of scenarios. Each will be based on the following principles:

  • Our primary focus is the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty.
  • Preserving the quality of the student experience is key.
  • Approaches should maintain the financial viability of Lewis & Clark.
  • Approaches should protect our mission and values.

Please see the series of five brief videos posted this week on our College of Arts and Sciences Admissions site earlier this week. They demonstrate well the approach we’re taking to the fall semester.

As I’ve said before, until a vaccine is widely available, we will have to maintain forms of social distancing, enhanced cleaning, and anticipate second and third waves of infection. In all cases, safety will be our top priority, and we will continue to follow the guidance of state health agencies. Our typically small classes lend themselves well to spreading people out. We may need to reduce the number of students living in on-campus housing, and we will need to limit the size of crowds at events. Our Health Service teams will have protocols and resources in place. These efforts will not be as difficult for us compared with large schools or those in denser urban areas. Our beautiful campus, slightly removed from the bustle of downtown, is an ideal location for safely spreading out.

At the same time, we will be prepared if the situation changes and we are ordered by the governor to end in-person instruction anytime in the fall. With time to plan this summer, the quality of online instruction in the fall, if needed, would no doubt be even higher than we achieved this spring.

Last week’s announcement by the California State University system that its fall-term instruction will take place almost exclusively online is a stark reminder that this pandemic continues to shift the landscape of higher education dramatically. I know from conversations with presidents and leaders of other institutions that all of us are planning as best we can for an uncertain future based on facts and circumstances that are unique to our schools.

We have reached out to California high school graduates, reiterating our plans to return to in-person teaching in September. So if you know any college-bound student from California or elsewhere who is undecided about where to go now, invite them to consider Lewis & Clark. Our College of Arts and Sciences Admissions FAQ is a great place to start. I encourage you to check out the information and resources that we are sharing with admitted undergraduates and their families.

If you have some time, I’d encourage you to consider the virtual events and programming that Alumni and Parent Programs is offering. There’s been a rich slate of offerings and many more to come.

Lewis & Clark has shown itself resilient throughout this extraordinary challenge. We are collaborating, supporting each other, and creating great educational opportunities inside and outside our classrooms. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to Palatine Hill in the fall.

Thank you, again, for all that you are doing for our community. Be safe. Be well. And stay tuned for more information as we solidify our plans for the future.

Wim Wiewel