Daily COVID-19 Update: March 26, 2020

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Thursday, March 26, 2020.

An announcement from the Finance Office

The refund checks many of you were awaiting were processed yesterday.

An announcement from the Library

Following the guidance of our Governor’s most recent orders, effective tomorrow the Library will be closed to in-person use.  Staff will be available via email to support check out and return of physical library materials.  Please email requests to  Calvin Gross grossj@berea.edu.

An announcement from the Help Desk

Following the guidance of our Governor’s most recent orders, effective tomorrow the Help Desk will be closed to in-person visits.  Persons needing assistance which requires an in-person visit may request that by emailing help_desk@berea.edu or calling 859-985-3343.

An announcement from Enterprise regarding the car share program

We have made the decision to suspend CarShare in the interest of our customers’ safety.  We have to prioritize thorough cleaning of cars in between every rental/usage.  This suspension is indefinite depending on the length of the pandemic.  CarShare will be suspended Friday, March 27 at noon.  A communication has been sent to all members.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone is overwhelmed”

I am sharing the following.  It was forward to me by a professor who was communicating with a student who asked that the following lament be passed along.

Can professors and the administration alike realize that students have:

  • full-time jobs that shortens the amount of time students have to actually do assignments
  • family obligations like taking care of another literal human being
  • mental health issues that take time to adjust to new routines
  • lack of access to internet as much as assignments seem to demand
  • immigration issues because of borders and USCIS shutting down
  • literally any other obligation imposed onto us as we were displaced within a few days worth of notice from a stable environment that had access to resources and are now forced to keep the same pace and quality of work.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone is overwhelmed.

I am sure that this student is not alone in feeling overwhelmed, and I am also sure that all Bereans, whether faculty, staff, alumni and retirees, too, are very worried about their own safety, the wellbeing of their loved ones, and what this epidemic will mean for our College, for our country and its people and for the whole world.  Particularly at this moment where the rate of infections is increasing rapidly and it is hard to see when we will be moving back to normalcy and what will be our condition then, it is hard to maintain a positive frame of mind.

It is you, our students, who matter the most to us, and you are the reason that Berea College exists.  Because you are worth the investment we have made in providing a high quality education, we have high expectations for you and we do our best to supplement your abilities, enterprise and drive with all the support we can muster.  Still, we do understand the many pressures you face. Please let us know what we can do to assist. If you need help with internet access or are struggling to meet assignment deadlines, please let your professors know. They are on your side. We should be able to provide you with a personal MiFi to provide internet access. If you are experiencing other issues, contact your advisor. They are ready and willing to assist you.  And if it is still sometimes really hard, perhaps Winston Churchill said it best, “If you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING.”

We appreciate your understanding as we navigate these new and unforeseen challenges. We believe in you. You are Berea College students whether you are on-campus or not. We want you to stay engaged to the greatest extent possible and end this very strange semester feeling proud that, like you have done your whole life, you beat the odds.

Two Perspectives on the COVID-19 Virus from the Education Studies Department

Jon Saderholm Associate Professor of Education Studies

The teaching relationship is the second most important human relationship in modern society. Without it, society would most surely collapse. That said, the deleterious effects of a pandemic cannot be underestimated either. With reliable estimates of more than two million deaths in the U.S. if we do nothing, it becomes clear that public gatherings – regardless of how critical they may be – should be curtailed.

We are blessed to live in an age in which so much information can be exchanged so easily. The information age has truly transformed the nature of instruction in schools, enabling students to find facts for themselves and free the classroom for active inquiry, communication, and community. And yet without the classroom, that same resource loses its power to transform even if a teacher can post videos on-line or point students to appropriate activities. In no way will virtual or asynchronous instruction be equivalent to face-to-face instruction.

We are also blessed that education has become sufficiently structured and advanced that each grade has a fairly common developmentally appropriate shared curriculum that is not duplicated in other grades. And so, given the probable harmful effect of closing schools, we are likely to watch this generation of students carry associated deficits forward from grade to grade if schools and teachers do not explicitly and intentionally work to ameliorate them in future years. As a high school science and mathematics teacher for 17 years, I witnessed such effects associated merely from a change in the curriculum wash through the school multiple times.

Nicholas Hartlep Associate Professor and Chair of the Education Studies and Robert Charles Billings Chair in Education

I write to you as a former elementary school teacher turned teacher-educator. Let me be brief. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to our country and other countries to attempt to “social distance” as a way to “flatten the curve.” The idea is fairly easy to understand: if everyone gets sick right at the same time hospital systems will become overburdened. Slowing the rate that people access medical services helps the medical facilities by not being too busy. But I am writing to share my perspective on how “social distancing” hurts our children and society from a relationship perspective. While I am appreciative of my daughter’s first grade teacher who created a YouTube video of her reading a book so her class could follow along, I do find it inauthentic from a relationship point of view. How much better would it be for my daughter to crawl up into her teacher’s lap and hear it read to her? How much better it would be to be able to touch the physical book?

Research tells us that both teaching and learning are social processes. Yes, social media exist, and technologies exist that assist in delivering and receiving content for teaching/learning purposes, but are these truly “social” and/or “relational” at a human level? A large limitation of teaching and learning online (and at home instead of a physical school) is that it is less social and is far more isolating than what is ideal. Interestingly, increasing relationship is something that technology companies are attempting to do. Entrepreneurs are trying to decrease social distance when using their products, such as Netflix Party, which allows users to watch Netflix “together,” but in different locations. I think Netflix Party and online teaching and learning is artificial and not the authenticity our brains and bodies truly crave. Watching a movie on a couch with a loved one or friend is far superior than a Netflix Party in my opinion. You cannot share a bowl of popcorn with a Netflix Party. Teaching in a classroom is far more relational than doing activities like Lexia on an iPad. But until COVID-19 goes away, I guess this is our “new” reality.

Spring and Spring Beauties

We have lots of other things on our mind, so that it is easy to overlook the beautiful turning of the season that is happening right now.  Among all the other sadnesses of our social distancing and dispersal is that we are not able to enjoy the beautiful Berea College campus together, where the Spring Beauties are out and ready for the early pollinators.


Yesterday’s Richmond Register included a story adapted from a Native American legend by Henry R. Schoolcraft (himself a very interesting fellow and well worth Googling.)  Schoolcraft learned the Ojibwe language from his first wife, whose mother was of that tribe, so that he was able to learn much Native American lore and to share it with the general public.  Since Mr. Schoolcraft passed away in 1864, I am hoping this is in the public domain.  I am including it so that those who do not take the Richmond paper may enjoy it, too.

The Spring Beauty

by Henry R. Schoolcraft (Adapted) An Ojibbeway Legend

An old man was sitting in his lodge, by the side of a frozen stream. It was the end of winter, the air was not so cold, and his fire was nearly out. He was old and alone. His locks were white with age, and he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed, and he heard nothing but the sound of the storm sweeping before it the new fallen snow.

One day while his fire was dying, a handsome young man approached and entered the lodge. His cheeks were red, his eyes sparkled. He walked with a quick, light step. His forehead was bound with a wreath of sweet grass, and he carried a bunch of fragrant flowers in his hand.

“Ah, my son,” said the old man, “I am happy to see you. Come in! Tell me your adventures, and what strange lands you have seen. I will tell you of my wonderful deeds, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will amuse each other.”

The old man then drew from a bag a curiously wrought pipe. He filled it with mild tobacco, and handed it to his guest. They each smoked from the pipe and then began their stories.

“I am Peboan, the Spirit of Winter,” said the old man. “I blow my breath, and the streams stand still. The water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone.”

“I am Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring,” answered the youth. “I breathe, and flowers spring up in the meadows and woods.”

“I shake my locks,” said the old man, “and snow covers the land. The leaves fall from the trees, and my breath blows them away. The birds fly to a distant land, and the animals hide themselves from the cold.”

“I shake my ringlets,” said the young man, “and warm showers of soft rain fall upon the earth. The flowers lift their heads from the ground, the grass grows thick and green. My voice recalls the birds, and they come flying joyfully from the Southland. The warmth of my breath unbinds the streams, and they sing the songs of summer. Music fills the groves where ever I walk, and all nature rejoices.”

And while they were talking thus a wonderful change took place. The sun began to rise. A gentle warmth stole over the place. Peboan, the Spirit of Winter, became silent. His head drooped, and the snow outside the lodge melted away. Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring, grew more radiant, and rose joyfully to his feet. The robin and the bluebird began to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream began to murmur at the door, and the fragrance of opening flowers came softly on the breeze.

The lodge faded away, and Peboan sank down and dissolved into tiny streams of water, that vanished under the brown leaves of the forest. Thus the Spirit of Winter departed, and where he had melted away, there the Indian children gathered the first blossoms, fragrant and delicately pink – the modest Spring Beauty.

Remember, Bereans.  KEEP GOING!

Lyle Roelofs, President