Community Message: October 28, 2020

A message from President Harring to the Muhlenberg College community

 Wednesday, October 28, 2020 04:58 PM

To the Muhlenberg Community,

I hope you are all doing well as we enter the fall holiday season. I have been so pleased to see the high degree of activity and student engagement at the College throughout the semester. I offer my gratitude to our student affairs staff for the amazing work they have done to create events in virtual spaces that allow us to remain connected. These innovative programs have fostered a sense of community that has spanned our physical distances.

If you look at the College’s COVID-19 dashboard, you will see that we have had only four positive cases since we began testing on August 17. Our success is largely due to our students who have followed the protocols we have put in place. Our confidence in successfully bringing more students back to campus in the spring has increased because of how these on-campus and near-campus students have conducted themselves over the past few months.

Of course, this leads to the most important question all of you have—what will the spring look like? Our spring planning groups, with representatives from across the campus, are in the midst of evaluating options. As we communicated earlier, seniors will be invited back to campus. We are assessing how well our plans for the fall have worked and what elements need to be revised to support more students on campus. Health and safety remain our top priorities. In July, we saw a rising number of COVID-19 cases across the nation and needed to change our fall decision. Today, we see similar rises in cases, but unlike the fall, we know more about this disease and its spread and have better resources available that can allow us to provide a safe campus environment. Uncertainties still exist, however, in regard to the course of the pandemic during the winter months.

One of our primary concerns remains the ability to provide sufficient testing with adequate turn-around time. The news on this front is very good. We are currently exploring additional testing partnerships that will allow expanded surveillance testing in addition to our on-campus symptomatic testing. As more labs have come on-stream, the number of available tests has greatly increased through private companies. We also have the advantage of evaluating the quality of service that these companies have provided to other colleges and universities.

Our planning process is moving along, and we will announce our Spring semester decision by mid-November.

Next Tuesday is Election Day. I hope each of you will vote, either in person or by mail-in ballot. But also, please care for yourselves during these turbulent times. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities the College is providing to come together as a community to discuss and reflect both before and after the election. Despite the unknowns ahead of us, our College is committed to supporting one another.

I also want to take a moment to reflect on the tragic shooting this week of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia. This is yet another reminder of the risks that Black Americans face in our society today and the corrosive impact it has on our country and our community. These incidents affect all of us, most directly our students, faculty and staff of color. And they remind us that we must stand together to strive toward being a more anti-racist society.

As you near the end of the semester, I hope you are able to find time to enjoy the last days of fall.

Kathleen Harring