By J. Bradley Creed
Colleges and universities are currently facing three massive challenges; a global pandemic, an economic recession and social unrest. Each of these alone is potent enough to strain the resources and capacities of institutions of higher education. Melded together, they constitute a rare and extraordinary trial.
What can be said about this crisis that has not already been said? I am running out of superlatives to describe our present circumstances. I have used the sports analogy: “We are not just making adjustments at halftime. We are calling audibles from the line of scrimmage.” More recently, I have employed the language of the battlefield: “We get up every day and go to war.”
The virus is an enemy unfazed by conventional weapons. Until there is a vaccine or widespread immunity within the general population, we practice prevention bolstered by careful planning. Our defense is social distancing and sanitizing the surfaces around us. We wear face masks in a spirit of patient hope.
Above the masks, there are smiling eyes. I see them every day, and my eyes smile back.
As of this writing, Campbell is in its third week of classes. We have resumed less than normal operations, but class is in session. The new normal is normed and grounded by having students back on campus. It is particularly heartening to see them occupying and enjoying the new Student Union which has already become the epicenter of our campus community. More than a thousand students each day make their way into the building to share meals with friends or take a break from classes.
Their eyes are smiling. So are mine.
Our smiling eyes are observing and paying close attention to our students and these present conditions which require assiduous monitoring and rapid responses to the fluctuations in our environment. The diligent and careful planning of our staff and leadership established a solid base for beginning the fall semester. We are off to a stable and promising start.
Our smiling eyes are also looking to the future, to brighter days when our vision is not obscured by the viral fog of a pandemic, when we can remove our masks and see once more smiling faces, not just smiling eyes. These unpredictable times are strengthening our resilience. Even while attending to current challenges, we are weighing our long-term prospects and assessing emerging trends that will reshape higher education and offer new opportunities for Campbell University.
We are in a position not just to survive, but to thrive going forward. Our eyes are on the horizon.