A message of support from President Fetrow
Dear Albright faculty and staff,
Last week was a blur of information, of change, of questions, and perhaps of fear. Things moved quickly. Decisions were made, new information became available, and then more questions were raised. There isn’t anyone at the college, including myself, who didn’t need to turn to someone for help in navigating what has been an extremely difficult week.
On Thursday evening, Albright community members received an email from Provost Karen Campbell, and Chief Health Officer Sam Wesner. This email shared that we had made the difficult decision to move teaching to virtual and online mode for at least two weeks following Spring Break. The email also described the various options that were available for students, options designed to fit the needs of our varied student population.
This was not a decision taken lightly or in haste. Albright’s Pandemic Planning Task Force has been meeting since mid-January and has been working diligently to continually monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation in order to ensure the health and safety of our community. As the possibility of pandemic loomed, this group recognized the many different needs of our students and our staff, including those who are unable to continue in their coursework from home, while others who do not have homes to which they can return.
WHY DID WE MAKE THIS DECISION?
We know that many of our students come to Albright for its close-knit community. Now we are being asked, each one of us, to adhere to the principle of social distancing. Social distancing, meant to “flatten the pandemic curve,” is why so many institutions – museums, theatres, schools, Disneyland, ski resorts, the NBA, and many others – have closed or suspended their activity.
One might think, why colleges? College students are young and at less risk than older and less healthy individuals. For one reason, many of our faculty and staff are more at-risk. But really, social distancing is also essential for those who aren’t high risk, to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. An illustration of the importance of social distancing and what it means to flatten the curve can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/.
Today, slowing the spread of this virus is a public health imperative. Continued spread of the virus is inevitable. It will not be limited to any particular state, or region, or country. We must all work together to slow the spread, so that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed and, thus, compromised.
WHAT ABOUT EACH OF US?
As Rita Franklin, our interim director of human resources, indicated in her Friday email, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that employers establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., teleworking) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to increase the physical distance among and between employees.
We’ve asked managers to work with employees to determine how this will look. Much remains to be determined. The Pandemic Planning Task Force continues meeting to answer questions and address new data as it becomes available. You can expect to continue to receive information on a regular basis.
WHAT WILL THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
Please know that we don’t have all of the answers right now. I expect that timeframes will be different than what we are currently projecting. Educational and other activities will happen in different ways and in different places.
I also know that the quality of the education that our students receive will not degrade. I know this because our faculty and staff are committed to students and committed to student success. The faculty are already working hard, through Spring Break, to bring the quality of an Albright education into the virtual world.
I know that you, our faculty and the staff, will bring your talents and creativity to bear as we work together to navigate constraints that are so essential to meeting the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community is one of the many things that is special about Albright College. And we know that our students come to Albright for just the thing that the current public health pandemic does not allow us to do — be together. During this time, we will miss that community in its physical reality. However, we are fortunate that we may still be able to experience that community as we work together in the virtual world to support our students and to meet the challenges this pandemic brings.
And when this situation has passed, we will welcome the return of all students, faculty, and staff, to our campus, and we will look for opportunities to gather and to celebrate our community.
Be safe and well during this time.
Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Ph.D., ’82
President and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry