A Message to the Sea Gull Family from SU President Charles Wight - June 1, 2020
Members of the SU Community,
I hope you and your families are safe and healthy, and that you continue to navigate the “new normal” we face each day with compassion and grace. Here on Camden Avenue, our days are filled with Zoom meetings and inboxes full of emails as we continue to plan for the weeks and months ahead.
Recently, University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Jay Perman announced that all USM institutions, including SU, will welcome students back this fall. Things might look a little different, with smaller gatherings, face masks and hybrid classes that include both in-person and online components, but having the campus come alive again with thousands of students, faculty and staff is, frankly, something that I get excited thinking about every day. I’ve missed my Sea Gull family.
To our returning students, I can’t count the number of faculty and staff who have told me how much they look forward to seeing you back in the classroom, out on Red Square and on all four floors of the Guerrieri Academic Commons. To our students who will be experiencing SU for the first time, you’re in for a treat. I know these past few months have been disappointing for many of you, with the cancelation of proms and graduations and, for our transfer students, your final weeks at your former school ripped away. We can’t give that back to you, but we can — and will — give you the very best experience possible as you begin the next phase of your academic journey. Moms and dads, that’s not just a promise but a Salisbury University Promise. And as your students soon will learn, we don’t take that oath lightly.
Our alumni have experienced this pandemic in many different ways, from our most recent graduates who missed out on their traditional Spring Commencement (though hopefully we will be seeing you at the postponed ceremony in December) to those in established careers who are now weathering seemingly continuous change not only in the workplace but at home (both of which are now often the same space). Despite these disappointments and adjustments, however, you retain the same Sea Gull spirit as always. I can’t tell you how heartened I am that so many of you have contributed to our Student Emergency Fund to assist current students in need. Dozens of SU students are able to continue their education thanks to your generosity and support.
As a lifelong educator — the chemistry course I’ve taught at SU remains a personal highlight — I understand the frustration many of our students and faculty felt last semester when their classes suddenly were transferred to a new and unfamiliar virtual format. Hopefully, that won’t happen again. If it does, however, our faculty will be better prepared than ever thanks to new training and resources we are implementing for the fall. And our staff, who in many cases have been true innovators in keeping SU running while working remotely, will continue to provide the support on which many of the campus community have come to depend. In the sciences, “Failure is not an option” is a well-known phrase. In our commitment to providing students with the very best education, it’s not just a saying; it’s a mandate.
Among USM institutions, SU was the first to provide housing, dining and fee refunds to students following last semester’s transition to online classes, the first to complete move-out from student housing, the first to announce Spring Commencement plans and the first to distribute Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to students (and we’re providing even more emergency aid through that program). It’s a trend I’m quite proud of and one I hope to continue as we put student service first.
As many of you take a well-deserved break this summer, whether that’s a few months away from academic studies or just a long weekend at the recently reopened beaches, please know that we at SU are doing everything we can to make the transition back to campus as smooth as possible. Our COVID-19 Task Force and its Planning Teams have identified a myriad of challenges that we will meet head on through August to ensure this “new normal” is as much like the “old normal” as possible. Safety and wellness, of course, will be paramount in every decision.
I hope you will join me to hear more about our back-to-campus plan during the next virtual SU Town Hall, scheduled 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 2. A link to the live stream will be posted that afternoon at salisbury.edu/town-hall. (Viewers will need to refresh their browsers at 5 p.m. to begin the broadcast.) It also will be streamed live on SU’s Facebook page, www.salisbury.edu, and be recorded for those unable to watch that evening.
As with any plans made in the midst of a pandemic, we will need to closely monitor the spread of the virus through the best available data and public health expertise. At the same time, we will follow guidance issued by agencies including the USM, Maryland Governor’s Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wicomico County Health Department. You can learn more about the progress we are making throughout the summer at SU’s COVID-19 webpage.
It may seem like this message is all about the novel coronavirus. In fact, it seems like everything these past few months has been about COVID-19. But really, it’s about you. It’s about the resiliency and spirit you have shown during this extraordinary time. And it’s about the trust you’ve placed in us, in SU, that we will always have the best interests of our students, faculty, staff and community at heart. Thank you. For your patience, your flexibility and your understanding. For your kindness and enthusiasm. And for being what makes SU such a special place — even when we can’t all be in one place.
Our university is only as strong as the community that comprises it, and we could not be SU without you.