Daily COVID-19 Update: March 20, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Friday, March 20…

I want to start with some very good news!

We received the following announcement from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation this morning.

We are delighted to inform you that the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship has been awarded to Aloyce Riziki, Sophia Winkowitsch and Stephen Nwaloziri. This year, from our 40 participating institutions, 153 finalists were nominated to compete on the national level from which 47 fellows were selected. Our pool continues to be extremely competitive. Congratulations to both you and your students for rising to the top of this extraordinary group!

It is extremely unusual for any one institution to have more than one Watson Fellow in any given year, so this is truly remarkable and a testament to the quality of our students, the excellence of the education offered by Berea College, the inspiring mentorship our Watson nominees receive from their faculty and staff advisors, and the wonderful work of Ann Butwell in the CIE.  Special congratulations to Aloyce, Sophia and Stephen!!!!!  (Please see the attached press release for more details.)

Students who want to explore how they too could win a Watson (or another graduate fellowship opportunity) can find more information on the CIE’s website. Applications are due September 15 for the following academic year.

Announcements from the AC

Many staff members and faculty (more than 75%) are now working from home.  For that reason many offices are closed or operating on very slim staff.  Please use email to convey requests and not that response time may be longer than usual.  In case of emergency please call Public Safety at (859) 985-3333.

As in many other states, Kentucky is likely moving in the direction of even more mandated closures and reductions of service.  For that reason, the AC urges all employees excused to work from home to reduce, as much as possible, the time spent in campus buildings.  Access for necessary reasons remains permitted at this point, but that could change at any given moment due to state government ruling.

Announcement from Hutchins Library

The library, in keeping with the above considerations, is moving to further reductions of staffing, with more of the staff working from home and focusing on maintaining on-line access to digital materials.  For the present, the library will remain open, to faculty and students only, and likely with reduced hours.  All visitors to the library are expected to practice social distancing in all in-person interactions.

Announcement from the CPO

The College Post Office is shifting beginning next week to being open 3 days per week (M-W-F).  The current mail load has dropped dramatically with almost 1,500 students gone.  This reduced schedule will allow us to minimize the time CPO staff need to be present on campus.

A Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus and the current situation from a Facility Management worker

We are the ones that fix the toilets, lights and trim the trees. People don’t give it a second thought when they turn the light on or walk across campus when it’s windy. Some people are very thankful for what we do, some don’t even think about it. But we do our best to keep everything going. It’s our job.

We get called in on Christmas, because a student didn’t close their window and water is now running down the hall. We clean up after storms. We come in to clean the snow off the sidewalks while others stay safe at home. It’s hard work, but it’s our job.

This pandemic is different. While the rest of the campus is trying to stay safe at home, we are working as normally as we can.  We are on edge; we worry about our fellow workers and family who may not be able to fight this thing off. We wonder why our supervisor is moved to the front office to help prevent him from getting sick and we get doughnuts and milk to gather around. We know we shouldn’t, but, like most people we take comfort in community and the sharing of food.  We ride in the truck with these people and we are all like family. We wonder why people that don’t have to be here keep coming back, even when they are sick and tell us they are contagious (after a ripple of panic goes through the department we find it’s the flu), and risk getting us and our families sick. We wonder what if one of us does get sick. Will we all be quarantined with no one left to take care of the campus? We wonder, is this worth it?

A Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus from the Department of Sustainability and Environmental Sciences

by Nancy Gift Compton Chair of Sustainability; Associate Professor of Environmental Studies; Chair of Division II

I want to preface what I write about sustainability and this virus by saying that I am scared, and I am not trying to be blindly optimistic or insensitive to suffering. I am newlywed to someone with compromised lungs, and my mom, at 85, has heart problems; I worry for both of them. Every life lost to this virus matters, and the fact that medical care in this country is best for the privileged means that we are facing tragedies that need not happen this way.

On the other hand, I spend more energy than I would like worrying about our carbon emissions and our natural resources. And here we are as a globe, suddenly and dramatically improving air quality and water quality and slowing consumption of goods and fuel and resources. We are, many of us, cutting our busy lives to core essentials, hopefully to some of the basics that truly make us happy:simple meals with loved ones, walks and time with animals, reaching out via letters and phones and email and text to those we care about. We are buying less stuff and flying less and keeping important people close.

Some people in power are noticing that working people matter. And many people are protecting the vulnerable. The political ground is shifting. The stock market is literally shrinking.

I find myself watching this moment, with compassion and fear and hope and wonder and anxiety, hoping that we can make the best of this awful situation, soon return to community life and travel, but not return to he habits of production and destruction and pollution. Maybe this can be a turning point in the path of climate change, and maybe we can move closer to sustainability in the wake of COVID-19.

Stay safe, everyone.  We are still together in spirit!

Lyle Roelofs, President