November 5: Presidents' Message to Parents
The holidays are approaching, marking the conclusion of a fall semester no one could have imagined. As interim presidents, we are acutely aware that COVID-19 has altered the student experience. We, too, were looking forward to fall lectures, concerts, sporting events and meals with students. We know what our students and families are missing.
Being on campus, however, has helped us see the deepest qualities of Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s: grace, kindness, generosity, and courage. On campus, Bennies and Johnnies wear masks and practice social distancing to protect each other; they hold the doors for each other and for strangers. Faculty and staff members are committed to being present for each student. Everyone makes eye contact, and we can see the smiles beneath the masks. Our community is rising to the occasion, and there is a sense of peace on our campuses that comes from within.
During the past week, we have experienced a bit of a surge of Coronavirus on campus. We anticipated this could occur, with Halloween and with a surge throughout the State of Minnesota.
With many students going home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we want to make sure our students and their families are safe. Working with the Minnesota Department of Health, we will offer free COVID-19 tests to all of our students next week. We want every student to be tested. This is important for Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s, our students’ families, and the public health of Minnesota.
Next week, there will be a testing site on campus for students, faculty and staff. Mass testing can help us get in front of the surge in cases and help prevent further spread. More details will be forthcoming.
In the event of surges, the experts tell us to limit contacts. We are going to do that for the next two weeks. We will be restricting visits between residence halls and taking other measures, which are outlined in a letter from the vice presidents of student development.
At the same time, we are intent on maintaining the academic experience for our students and faculty. The libraries will remain open, and students are encouraged to attend class in person. We have not traced a single case of COVID-19 to transmission within the classroom.
Earlier, we used the words courage and grace. Our community is responding to this pandemic with courage. We will stick together. Our students have told us they wish to be on campus and remain together through the end of this semester. With grace, we will be able to do that.
Laurie Hamen, J.D. Eugene McAllister, Ph.D.
CSB Interim President SJU Interim President