Letter from President Wiewel, July 21
July 21, 2020
Dear Lewis & Clark Community,
Our perception of time is elastic. When I note that more than 125 days have passed since we de-densified the campus and moved to online education, I have a sense of both, “That’s all?” and “Wow, that was fast!” Either way, we won’t return to old routines anytime soon, so we must chart our future.
Reopening planning. As I’ve said and written before, we are planning for on-campus education–in classrooms and online–this fall. Even though positive COVID-19 cases have been increasing in Oregon, they are still relatively low, and we remain hopeful. We know that in-person education is what we do best and provides the greatest benefit to our students. We are committed to fulfilling our educational mission while keeping the community safe.
No doubt, we have heard and will continue to hear many divergent opinions about what we should do in the fall and how. Our approaches to education follow the guidance from the Office of Governor, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, the Oregon Health Authority, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We have been busy thinking about everything, even though we may not yet have all the answers. No one can. We have built a Reopening for Fall 2020 website that has the most complete and up-to-date information, so we strongly urge all members of the LC community to check it out. We will continue to update this site as new information and guidance is developed. I appreciate everyone’s hard work, good spirit, and tolerance for ambiguity as we seek to make the right decisions at the right time, with the right information.
The quality of our academic programs and the commitment of our faculty are the foundations of a Lewis & Clark experience. Our faculty are working hard to preserve that quality even as they make adjustments to classes to keep everyone safe. Those who do not attend classes in-person–for example, students who need to self-isolate–will still be able to fully engage. More information on classes will be available soon.
Things on campus will look more than a little different. Everyone will be wearing masks or face shields, there will be more plexiglass barriers and one-way entrances and exits, we’ll be keeping our distance (six-feet) from each other, and there will be frequent and deep cleaning. Gatherings will be small: up to 25 people if we are still in Phase 1, and up to 50 in Phase 2. Until a vaccine is widely available, we will have to maintain forms of social distancing, avoid large gatherings, and anticipate second and third waves of infection.
We are asking students to self-isolate to the greatest extent possible for two weeks prior to coming to campus. Additional requirements and steps will apply to residential students. Given the changing guidance regarding COVID-19 testing, we are still considering the best approach for testing our community. We will receive two rapid testing machines and will finalize our plans later in the summer.
Black Lives Matter and Issues of Racial Justice
Last week I was part of a constructive meeting with student leaders of culturally-specific groups to discuss issues of equity and inclusion on our campus. This is just one of the many conversations, practices, and initiatives that we will be continuing as we address issues related to the systemic and ongoing nature of racial injustice, especially as it impacts the Black community. In the meantime, we hope you find the resources offered here helpful.
Because we plan for in-person education this fall, the cruel and counterproductive action announced on July 6–and rescinded last week–by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would not have affected us. However, it does send an extremely negative message to international students about our nation, and that perception will affect us for some time to come. We joined 180 higher education institutions in submitting an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s successful efforts to prevent implementation of these measures.
The U.S. Department of Education has issued new rules about Title IX processes that govern how colleges deal with sexual assault cases. These go into effect starting August 14. With the recent appointment of new Title IX Coordinator Casey Bieberich, we have stronger capability in this important work than ever. We encourage everyone who has experienced any form of sexual or interpersonal violence to report and seek resources and encourage anyone who wishes to provide input on our policy and process to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Portland in the News
Portland is receiving national attention because of the ongoing struggles between protesters and police–most recently because of the alarming actions of federal agents. For those of you unfamiliar with Portland, it is important to note that these actions are confined to a small area of downtown, six miles from our campus. While we don’t support the violent actions of some of the protesters, we stand behind peoples’ right to demonstrate and oppose the violent response by police and federal law enforcement personnel.
Since March, we have offered a robust slate of virtual alumni events. And late last month we started a new class called “Pandemic in Perspective: Connecting Through the Liberal Arts.” Many students, faculty, and staff worked hard to bring this summer series to well more than 100 incoming students and returning second-year students. It is encouraging to see how the creative use of online media can supplement our in-person gatherings.
I wish to extend a hearty thank you to everyone in our community for their flexibility, patience, and effort in the face of off-the-charts uncertainty, including faculty and staff who are preparing for the fall reopening. Instead of a well-deserved break, most of us are hard at work planning for summer and fall under a whole new set of circumstances. We will be welcoming some staff and faculty to come back to campus–beginning July 27–and anticipate welcoming many more students back in just a few weeks.
We will continue collaborating, supporting each other, and creating great educational opportunities inside and outside our classrooms. The strength of our community is one of our biggest assets, especially now when taking care of one another is more important than ever.
All the best,