Dear Members of the University Community,
This past weekend was a sad and unsettled weekend for me, as I am sure it was for many of you. As I watched our students move out of their dorms, the palpable excitement that I experienced helping new students move-in last fall was absent and replaced with sadness, resignation, and anxiety.
I am sure you share my dismay at the effects COVID-19 is having on our lives, whether you are a faculty member, a student, a post-doc, a trainee, or one of our many dedicated staff members. It is unprecedented in our lifetimes to have our daily activities so potentially disrupted, to have our educations, our jobs, our travel, our social lives, and our finances all changing so dramatically. It is deeply disturbing and upsetting.
I have received many angry and sad messages from our undergraduates, particularly our seniors, who will not be having their final spring on campus. In each case I have tried to convey to them that I too am sad and angry. I was looking forward to my first University of Rochester commencement as president, and now I am not sure it will happen, at least in the way it was originally planned. We will have a better sense of whether we will be able to hold our commencement ceremonies in the coming weeks, once the contours of this pandemic are better understood. But, rest assured we will celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, as soon as it is safe to do so!
Many of you have many, many questions and unfortunately, we do not have all the answers.
Our Coronavirus university response team, which was formed on February 3rd, has been working tirelessly to get all of the up-to-date information about this disease and about state and federal guidance regarding the outbreak. They will continue to do that as long as the virus is with us. Please remember to check our Coronavirus Updates website for the latest updates, see: https://www.rochester.edu/coronavirus-update/.
Our faculty and staff across the university are all working very hard to keep the university running, to transition our academic courses and our student support services to online and virtual formats in a short period of time, to continue to care for the students who remain on campus, and to keep our community healthy. The University of Rochester Medical Center is providing key leadership and support—in both the research and clinical settings—in addressing what is now a national public health crisis. Our URMC physicians, epidemiologists, public health specialists, nurses, and administrative staff are prepared to work aggressively and courageously to provide the best possible healthcare treatment and medical guidance to our campus and community. I have been so uplifted by the way in which every member of our staff has risen to this occasion.
We all look forward to the time when this is all over and we can look back on it, certainly not fondly. I think it is safe to say that none of us will ever forget 2020! In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and try to stay healthy and optimistic. Also, try to keep your sense of humor: I have gotten great pleasure out of listening to a Spotify play list that Rita Wilson prepared while in quarantine in Australia with her husband Tom Hanks (they both tested positive for the virus), it is called “Quarantunes.” Give it a listen!
Warm regards (and remember to wash your hands),