COVID-19 Planning at Berea College

The purpose of this communication is to offer more information about planning for the various eventualities that we are facing.  Please know that none of us has the ability to accurately anticipate all possible contingencies and developments.  For that reason, the following is subject to change at any point depending upon actual conditions.

Posted on Apr. 3, 2020 at 3:38 p.m.

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Friday, April 3, 2020.

The latest concerning COVID-19 in Madison County

We now have 12 confirmed cases in the County, and, sadly, we have also had our first death.  No further information has been made available by the family.  Of the 12, two are hospitalized and others are recovering or have recovered.  We are aware of no cases with a direct connection to the College.

An announcement from the social media team (from Bee Lakes)

Berea colleagues, it is no secret we are all currently facing unprecedented challenges. During this difficult time, I believe it is increasingly important to spread positivity. As a part of this effort, we have launched an informal social media campaign, #BereaProud. If you would like to participate, we ask that you share an image on your social media expressing why you feel #BereaProud. This can be a photo of you in your favorite Berea gear, your favorite spot on campus, your response to how the community has banded together during this time or a fond memory. For everyone’s safety, please do not travel to campus to take a photo! Please see an example post. Be sure to use #BereaProud and tag the Berea College accounts so that we may repost a selection of these. I have also created a profile photo frame that is now available on Facebook for anyone who would like to utilize it.  (I would also like to thank Dani Graves ’19 and Molly Smith ’15 for their collaboration on this project!)

An announcement from Writing Resources

With GSTR paper deadlines beginning to loom, we wanted to let students know that Writing Resources is still offering remote peer support for student writing. Students who would like feedback can still log in to WCONLINE to make appointments and can now choose from two options that accommodate a range of internet access levels: etutoring (uploading a paper and receiving written feedback) and online consultations (live sessions with video, chat, and a shared workspace). Students can access written directions and/or a short video explaining these new offerings. We look forward to supporting you!   Amy 

An announcement regarding hackers, etc

If you have received any emails from Lyle Roelofs or anyone else in the Berea College administration, please verify that the email is actually coming from the said sender. During this COVID-19 pandemic, many hackers are using the fact that people are working from home as a way to increase their phishing efforts.

If you have received any emails containing requests that you check your account password or any of a host of other attempts to get your information, please do not follow these links. Instead, delete these emails from your inbox. These are phishing attempts and are not legitimate messages. Help Desk will NEVER ask for your password.

Please contact the help desk if you have additional questions.

More Berea alums helping out (from Heather Schill)

I wanted to share another story of a Berea alum doing great things during this difficult time. John Franklin, who graduated in 1997, has been using the 3-D printers at Pulaski County High School, in Somerset, KY, to make plastic equipment for the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital. The hospital had a nice write-up on their Facebook page this morning about the donations. John was an Ag major at Berea and is now a science teacher at Pulaski County High School. I imagine we have MANY alumni around the world working to serve others during this unprecedented time, so I thought you might enjoy hearing about one more.

An announcement regarding the Run/Walk Club (Shucks!)

Sadly, just on the evening of the day that I announced the resumption of the R/W Club, our Governor provided specific guidance discouraging exercising in groups even if the six foot rule is respected.  Therefore, we will not be able to resume the group R/W activity.  I certainly do hope you will still find times to run or walk, individually, though.

What Are We Without Community: A Perspective

By Silas House, NEH Chair in Appalachian Studies, Associate Professor of Appalachian Studies

I am sharing today, with the author’s permission, a lovely and thoughtful piece that is appearing in The Atlantic.  (The pay wall is down, so anyone can access this via the Internet.

Thanks for all the support:

Laurie and I and the whole Administrative Committee want you to know how much we appreciate all the messages of support.  For example, an unsigned (!) thank you note arrived today.  The sender, a Berea employee who is working from home wanted to thank us for the decisions around how the work is getting done and acknowledged as well as those employees who are continuing to work in essential positions on campus.  In his or her words, “When we are able to come back together on campus as normal, perhaps we can have a celebration to honor those who were in those essential roles.”  What an excellent idea!

The number of announcements I am needing to make on a daily basis is diminishing as we are all adjusting and accommodating.  Therefore, unless something urgent comes up, I am not intending to send out updates over the weekend.

It is tulip season on campus, and despite the usual number of persons to appreciate them, the tulips are certainly doing their part to declare that spring is back!  I thought I’d should share a couple of pics so that more of you can appreciate them.

Stay safe all weekend long!

Lyle Roelofs, President

Previous Campus Announcements

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Something to share from Aaron Beale for Student Crafts

Yesterday, Deloris Reed of Student Crafts was contacted by an alumna named Dixie Shugars (I mean the name is good enough to share on its own!).  Ms. Shugars (originally from Casey County, now living in Maui) is in her 90’s and contacted Calvin Gross to inquire about a book she remembered that documented Berea’s early history (Deloris thought it was called Berea College: The First 50 Years , which likely refers either to the Elizabeth Peck history of our first 100 years, or the subsequent version by Peck and Emily Ann Smith covering our first 125 years.)  Anyway, Calvin figured out what she was looking for and had several copies one of which he mailed to her at no charge.  This absolutely meant the world to Ms. Shugars and is another great example of someone in our community going above and beyond in the present moment.

Ms. Shugars contacted Student Crafts to purchase a gift (two Glade coffee mugs) for Calvin as a thank you.  Not surprisingly she and Deloris hit it off on the phone and had quite a long conversation about the wonderful things that make Berea so special.

An announcement from HR

Beginning now and running through June 14th of this year, utilizing the telehealth option (livehealthonline.com) available in our Medical Benefits Plan will be covered at no cost share to members.  This applies regardless of which plan (Premium, Core, or High Deductible) you are signed up for.  Should you have specific questions, please feel free to contact Brandon Noble at Human Resources at 859.985.4225 or at his email nobleb@berea.edu.

An announcement from Student Life

Students, for the safety of our you and our community, we’re expecting and requiring students on campus NOT to invite any visitors to campus. Do not go to other people’s houses to socialize or to conduct any business.  We expect our students to follow the Executive Orders signed by Kentucky’s Governor, to “Stay Healthy At Home.”

Bringing visitors to campus or visiting other people both in and outside of the community, puts your safety and the safety of the entire community at risk, including the safety of others still living and working here at the college.  As Governor Beshear says, “You must do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.” Doing otherwise is not acceptable and could potentially result in a student conduct violation. Remember, #TogetherKY

An announcement from Madison County Public Health

Fraudulent test sites have been discovered in Louisville.  They operate on a cash-only basis and provide meaningless results for your money.  As soon as the police and public health authorities close them down, they pop up elsewhere.  Beware should such a con come to our area.

Sadness

We lost a treasured and beloved member of our community.  Rev. Randy Osborne, retired Berea College chaplain and assistant to the president passed away at his home in Berea this morning.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his devoted wife, Melissa, also a Berea retiree, and his family.  More information will be provided later by Loretta Reynolds

An announcement from the Run/Walk Club

Back by popular demand, the Run/Walk Club will be resuming activities this coming week.  If you are in town or on campus, join us each MWF morning at 8:00 am if you would like.  We will meet at Seabury Circle and walk or run a campus circuit.  Maintenance of proper social distancingthroughout the activity will be required, meaning no one is allowed to pass the president!

Making Sense of an Infodemic: Computing Perspectives on Coronavirus

By Jasmine Jones, Assistant Professor of Computer Science (on behalf of the Computer Science Dept)

The speed and scale of digital communications, including online news, social media, and messaging apps, have drastically changed the ways the public learns about and responds to public health crises. These three short readings: a research article, a twitter thread, and a blog post— provide a glimpse of computing perspectives on recent events.

Reflecting on an Infodemic as a Crisis Informatics Researcher

“WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that we are not just fighting an epidemic, but what he called an infodemic. And indeed, there are already numerous cases of false information about the virus spreading online — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.” (Kate Starbird, University of Washington)

How Data Scientists may be accidentally misleading People

Data visualization professor Evan Peck identifies and explains 5 ways that data visualizations in news articles, created by well-meaning data scientists, are actually contributing to misinformation about the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

See Something, Say Something: Correction of Global Health Misinformation on Social Media

This research article, published during the 2017 Zika virus epidemic, presents an experiment with college students to test whether “social” vs. “algorithmic” correction of misinformation on social media has a greater effect on personal belief. It proposes how public health campaigns should address misinformation in the midst of an emerging disease outbreak.

Those of you who have been away from campus will be pleased to learn that the landscaping around Danforth Residence Hall has been completed.  Students remaining on campus are housed in Danforth, Deep Green and Bingham.  Note the large number of Berea Bikes in use!

Bikes on campus

Stay safe, stay careful, stay socially distant, but in touch in other ways,
Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

An announcement from Madison County Public Health

We have 4 new cases in the county for a total of 12 now, 5 hospitalized and 7 recovering at home.  Further information is never provided.

An announcement from Academics

May-term will be conducted via distance learning. Expect announcements soon about changes in course availability and registration procedures. Labor is not required except for students residing on campus. Decisions on the summer 7-week session will be made in mid-April.

Everyone is pitching in

Professor of Biology Dawn Anderson and chemistry faculty Mary Robert Garrett and Matt Saderholm have made two gallons of hand sanitizer for Public Safety using the World Health Organization (WHO) protocols. Chemistry has the capacity to make more should there be a need. WHO hand sanitizer is more liquid than the commercial gels but is as effective because it is greater than 80% alcohol by volume.

An archival perspective: Encountering Berea’s Old Quarantine Dorm

by Christopher Miller, College Curator, Associate Director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center

Over the years, I have encountered bits and pieces about Berea’s historical quarantine practices.  From at least 1906 until 1940, Berea had designated quarantine spaces that were used during annual outbreaks of influenza.  One such space was the third floor of Stephenson Hall where EPG is located today.  Stephenson Hall used to be two separate buildings and this side was the Bruce Building.  In the basement of Bruce was the college’s on-campus saw and planing mill.  On the first floor street side, where the Appalachian Center is now, was the print shop, fully equipped for hot-lead typecasting and offset printing.  The back half of the first floor, where First Year Initiatives is now, as well as the entire second floor, was the woodworking shop which supported Woodcraft, woodworking instruction, and Facilities Management.  Finally, on the third floor of Bruce Building was the quarantine dorm.  Sometime after World War II, the quarantine dorm was converted to storage. However, in 1999-2000, it was completely emptied in preparation for remodeling as the home of EPG.  After clearing, but before renovation, I was in that space to scout for historical artifacts.  It has green painted pine floors and tongue-and-groove wooden walls.  The there were deep marks in the floor made by rows of metal bunk beds.  What is now Peter Hackbert’s office was the restroom, with three old toilets and two showers.  On street-side brick wall were the remains of an old candlestick telephone and a bulletin board.  I spent about an hour in that forgotten room.  Because of my training as a social historian and curator, those visible clues kept bringing to my mind to the anxiety and suffering that once occurred in that space.  Our current crisis has brought back that memory and gives me increased insight.

I’ll end this update by sharing appreciation for our entire Farm and Farm Store team, who, together with their students have continued to work very hard through the crisis.  The animals, crops and everything produced cannot be neglected for even a day.  We will be missing the opportunity of purchasing the great selection of healthy food from the Farm Store while they are on hiatus to assist with planting season.  So, special thanks to:

  • Bob Harnad – Farm Manager
  • Charlie Thomas – Crops and Livestock
  • Janet Meyer – Horticulture
  • Andrew Oles – Interim College Farm Director
  • Tammy Cornett – Farm Store Manager
  • David Little – Assistant Farm Store Manager and Butcher
  • Emily Smith – Baker
  • and all of their wonderful students.

Here is a picture of part of our last purchase…

Fresh produce and bakery items

Warm regards from Berea,

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

An announcement from the Labor Program

March 31st of this year would have been the 99th year of holding Labor Day celebrations at Berea College. Unfortunately, our plans had to be cancelled due of the pandemic. And while we cannot physically celebrate together, the Labor Program wanted you to know that on today especially of all days, we appreciate everyone’s commitment, students, staff and faculty to the good work that propels this special mission onward.

An announcement from Printing Services

Printing Services is no longer open for business, per the Governor’s direction late last week of additional businesses that needed to close to the public.  The Printing Services team is now telecommuting, while staying focused on College services.   However, they will still be available to respond on campus to emergency copier or paper needs that may arise that are critical to College operations.  Please email any requests to Printing Services Group or GprintingSERVICES@berea.edu.

An announcement from Dining Services

On the basis of when students are coming to Dining, we are making following change to our hours of operations.

  • Breakfast – 7:30 to 9:00 am (currently 7:30 – 10:00 am,  on average we have two students from 9-10) 
  • Lunch – 11:00 – 1:00 pm (currently 11:30 – 1:30pm, on average we 0 students from 1 -1:30pm) 
  • Dinner 5:00pm – 7:00pm (currently 4:30 – 7:30pm, on average we get 1 student from 4:30 – 5 pm and 0 students from 7 – 7:30 pm) 

A tidbit from the Berea-Is-Everywhere Department

You have all heard how our country’s industrial organizations are trying to rally around the important goal of producing medical equipment and PPE in the quantities that will be needed to navigate through the peak of COVID-19 cases still to come.  Today, I learned that our own Jack Roush ‘64, founder of Roush Engineering, a major firm providing specialty engineering services to auto companies and others, is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic in gearing up to produce medical equipment to assist in that effort.  (Roush also co-owns and manages the Roush Fenway NASCAR team, so the respirators they fabricate may also turn out to be capable of going 200 mph.)

An announcement from Counseling Services

Greetings!  Please know that although the staff of Counseling Services is working remotely, we are still available to our students.  We are working closely with the College’s General Counsel, Judge Wilson, and IS&S  to ensure that the services we are offering students are HIPAA Compliant, safe and secure, and meet our profession’s highest ethical standards.   Students can call our office at 859-985-3212.  Angela Taylor has had the phone forwarded to her home number so she is ready and able to continue answering calls.  She will forward messages meant for any of the counselors or you may email a counselor directly.  Email addresses are:

We are posting daily messages and tips to our Facebook page, and invite both students and campus colleagues to take advantage of information on how to navigate these challenging times. There is a different theme for each day: Mindful Mondays, Tuesday Tips, Well Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, and Funny Friday.

Listed are a  few tips to meant to help you maintain your mental health while complying with directives from the CDC, Governor Beshear, and President Roelofs to shelter in place, maintain social distancing practices, and attend to our human need for connection in creative ways.

  1. Feelings are not facts.  However, they are useful data to be considered within the context of facts.  Instead of pushing away uncomfortable feelings, become curious about them. What we resist, persists.  Notice the ebb and flow of the intensity of a feeling.  Notice how painful feelings might lesson after a few deep breaths.  The goal is not to eliminate painful feelings but to learn to tolerate the painful ones and lessen their intensity
  2. Worry is the practice of borrowing trouble from the future.  Do your best to address what the day brings, and trust your ability to respond to whatever tomorrow brings.
  3. According to author Brene Brown, when we start dress rehearsing tragedy, we rob ourselves of present joy.  Savor the joyful moments. Don’t dilute your joy with expecting the other shoe to drop when things are okay right now.
  4. Social media is great for communication but for connection, pick up the phone, arrange to have dinner with friends via Zoom, take a blanket and gather six feet apart on the quad. Be creative in how you stay in touch during this time of sheltering in place.
  5. Don’t expect your life to be as productive as it was before the COVID-19 outbreak.  Revise your expectations to what can truly be accomplished during this “new normal.”  Could this be a time of reflection, creativity, new approaches, a consolidation of good information gleaned from attending workshops, conferences, reading, and stimulating conversations?
  6. Practice gratitude.  Verbalize three things you are grateful for each day.  It could be as small as a delicious cup of coffee, a bluebird couple making their home in the bird house in your back yard, or as big as relative economic wellbeing, and the health of you and your family.
  7. Loss of Control may be the hardest thing to accept in our current situation.  A colleague from the Beck Institute shares  the following:

More advice on coping strategies is below, “Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Respond to COVID-19.”

We will get through this.  Some with more heartache than others.  But no one need go through it alone.  We are here as colleagues to our amazing faculty and staff and as mental health counselors for our students.

Stay safe and healthy,

Sue
Sue Reimondo, Ph.D., LPCC
Director
Berea College Counseling Service

A sociological perspective: The multi-faceted implications of social connection through the COVID-19 pandemic

By Andrea Woodward, Associate Professor of Social Sciences

In the first sociological study ever conducted, Emile Durkheim showed a powerful link between social isolation and risk of suicide in 19thcentury Europe. Ever since, social research has continued to reveal links between social isolation and poor health, premature death, susceptibility to disease, and more. Much recent news commentary draws from this research to emphasize the need to connect as much as possible amid social distancing so the solution to one health crisis doesn’t create another. But our need to connect has other implications for “flattening the curve” as well. As with the climate crisis, while many Americans are making necessary changes to their lifestyles, others are in denial and insisting on business as usual. Social research on why we believe and act the way we do in the face of the climate crisis is useful for thinking about why people are slow to act in response to COVID-19 as well—and how to bridge this divide. As Andrew Hoffman summarizes in How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate, we process information through cognitive filters that affirm our own identity and reinforce connections with people who matter most to us. If believing something or acting in a particular way will put distance between us and those we care most about, we’ll choose connection over agreeing with facts nearly every time. To reach consensus, we need to be able to identify and communicate through what’s threatening a “denier’s” connection to other people (and to themselves) when they’re told this pandemic is real and they need to act fast. This requires authentic connection and trust, and it often means that the best messengers are the people whom someone already has the closest ties (e.g. “best messengers” often come from one’s religious community, political party, etc.). The bottom line, from a sociological perspective, is that keeping our focus on human connection—especially in the midst of physical isolation—will be key to promoting public health through this pandemic and to getting through to the other side of it as quickly as possible.

I’ll end this update by sharing another picture from the Quad.  Today is rainy and cool—seasonal in fact for late March, early April—and this view shows the stately trees of the Quad holding up a gray sky.

Tree on the quad

Warm regards from Berea,

Lyle Roelofs, President

More from Counseling Services

Using CBT to Respond to COVID-19
March 26, 2020
By Allen R. Miller, PhD, MBA

The absence of consistent and reliable information about the coronavirus seems to be increasing people’s anxiety. They often think, “I don’t know what to do”;  “Am I doing the right thing”; and “What else should I be doing?” No wonder they feel confused and overwhelmed. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is uniquely suited to help people gain control of their lives and feel better.

Public health officials have given us directions to maintain physical distance from others, wash our hands for 20 seconds, and disinfect our surroundings. While many people are following those directions, some are not. Following these directives doesn’t necessarily alleviate people’s fears about what comes next, though. Indeed, there is a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know the path of the virus nor its longevity. The destruction that has already been done by the virus doesn’t seem to be the full measure of its toll. We have seen people react to the pandemic by trying to gain control of their lives and surroundings. It is the effort to gain excessive control that leads to constant checking and sometimes hoarding of crucial medical supplies.

Paradoxically, the more we try to control everything in our environments, the less control we feel. The infinite number of possible actions is greater than we can calculate, let alone act upon. We need to do what we reasonably can to manage ourselves and our surroundings and ultimately, we need to get comfortable with the idea that we don’t have control.

What is the cost of the relentless pursuit of control? Observable behaviors like bulk purchasing and excessive cleaning are the tip of the iceberg. Underlying these behaviors are a range of negative thoughts and painful emotions. CBT tells us that excessive attempts to control are associated with thoughts such as “I am vulnerable,” and assumptions that “If I don’t overprepare, then I will fall victim.” When we think this way, we feel fear and irritability. When thoughts, emotions and behaviors are aligned in this way, a repetitive cycle begins based on the belief  “There is danger and whatever I do is inadequate.” This is the underlying explanation for why trying to gain control only leads individuals to feel less in control.

How do you give up control and how does giving up control help you to feel better? CBT uses a scientific approach to answer these questions. First, question yourself about what sounds reasonable and is founded in scientific evidence. For instance, “Does it make sense and is there evidence to support the effectiveness of recommendations such as social distancing, hand washing, and keeping your hands away from your face?” Alternatively, “Does it make sense and is there evidence to suggest that repeatedly scrubbing your hands for more than 20 seconds will reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus?” Most people conclude that the first question is answered affirmatively and that the second question is not. Listening to public health officials and saying, “I have done everything that is reasonably possible” is a step that illustrates that one is shifting the focus from listening to fear-related thoughts such as “I am in danger” to more realistic thoughts such as “I have followed the recommendations of the scientists who know more about the virus that I do.”

The next step can be a difficult one. Unfortunately, doing everything that we possibly can do does not give us absolute control over the virus, or even our immediate surroundings. Even on a good day, we as individuals don’t control the world. Whether it’s good things that happen to us on a daily basis or a global pandemic, we don’t sit in the driver’s seat. In spite of the actions we take, we don’t control much about our surroundings. This step is accepting at a deep level that we don’t have control. In situations when we don’t get what we want, or worse, that we get what we don’t want, we may feel hurt and angry.

If we give up control, where does that leave us? Well, most of us are left at home isolated from people we know and deprived of activities we like. This is a perfect time to reflect on things we truly value and what is important to us. This is a very individual matter. People may value being productive, providing for their families, spirituality, relationships, activities, the arts, sports, or something else. Which of these that we as individuals value is not the important thing, although we may reassess what we think is important at a time like this.

When we have identified what we value and what is important to us, we are uniquely empowered to pursue those things. CBT tells us that acting according to our values will help us feel better and improve our self-efficacy. We have empowered ourselves to act on those things we have determined are most important to us. By doing so, we give ourselves control. Control— the thing we have wanted all along— is now ours. As we move along this path, it is essential that we keep in mind what we value. What we do and how we do it will be meaningful and have purpose for us when we remind ourselves that we are pursuing our own aspirations.

We can use CBT to reduce our fears, conquer overwhelmed feelings, change our thinking and act in meaningful ways.

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Monday, March 30, 2020.

First, a message of thanks…

Many Americans have continued to work and to serve throughout this crisis, even though doing so exposes them to greater risk.  We need to thanks all of these folks from the bottom of our hearts, the people on the medical front lines, the dedicated staff and Berea and elsewhere working to keep our spaces as clean and contagion-free as possible, the people who work in grocery stores, our Farm Store, and pharmacies so that we continue to have access to needed food and medicine, the truck drivers without whom there would be nothing on the shelves at this point, law enforcement and other responders, the farmers at Berea and elsewhere who have continued to grow food, other workers in plants and factories making other necessary items, and the list goes on and on.

An announcement from the Berea Corps program

The Berea Corps Program has 17 positions available for the 2020-21 program year.  The program is available to 2019 and May 2020 Berea graduates.  (All coursework must be completed by May 2020 in order to be eligible.)  To apply, alumni can visit the staff positions section of the Human Resources websiteA listing of available positions is attached.  For more information, contact Erica Woods, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, at woodser@berea.edu.

An announcement from the Farm Store

The Farm Store will accept orders until midnight Monday for curbside pick-up Tuesday from 12-2.

Here is our current order form for Tuesday.

The Farm Store will then close to the public with plans to reopen April 14.  The Berea College Farm is still operating and the Farm Store team will be working with the rest of the Farm Team during this time in order to assist with planting, which is obviously critical in this season.

Re-iterating the above gratitude, we are very thankful to the staff of the Farm Store, led by Tammy Cornett, and the College Farm, led by Andrew Ferguson-Oles, and all their hardworking students.

Request for thoughts and prayers

Thankfully, although there have now been 8 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our county, the campus has been spared so far.  We do, however, have a student who is suffering from an unrelated but very serious medical condition and request your thoughts and prayers for him.

A perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic from the Theatre Department

by Deborah G. Martin, Professor and Chair of Theatre

It is the isolation that hurts the worst. Sure, we have our students reading plays, watching videos, giving them modified assignments.  However, true Theatre means simultaneous space and time and teamwork, and teamwork means togetherness.  In Theatre we learn by DOING together.  In our Acting classes we tell our students that we expect them to fail the first assignment because on the second they will fail better and on the third even better.  Audiences do not come see actors thinking onstage; they come to see them DO onstage.  Confidence is built through trust and exploration with other students in the room.  We need to hear the breath and see preparation in the body.  Rehearsals are pedagogically electric; we teach our students to apply what they learn in the classroom to their production work. Together, we learn the lines, build the sets, sew the costumes, hang and focus the lights.  When a theater “goes dark” or closes, we leave on what we call the “ghost light.”   We are keeping the ghost light on – even now.  Hopefully it’s a beacon that leads our students back to our theatrical home.  We yearn to open our doors again; to take reservations again; to rehearse again; to hear the applause again.  We yearn for the belly laughs we would have at our department meetings. The pandemic has taken the one teaching tool we never knew we needed –togetherness.

Professor Martin also shared a YouTube video featuring students of the Theatre program collaborating on some Shakespeare for your viewing and listening pleasure.  This is Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech.

I’ll end this update by sharing a lovely picture from the Quad, the apple tree between Hutchins Library and Phelps Stokes Hall in glorious bloom.

Apple Tree on the quad

Warm regards from Berea,

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Saturday, March 28, 2020.

First, a little humor…

Many churches are holding their services virtually at this point, following the guidance, in Kentucky at least, of our Governor.   This is a good thing, of course, but streaming platforms have many features, which can trip up the unwary as happened to the priest in this clip.

A reminder to students about the importance of social distancing

A number of folks on campus have reported seeing groups of students interacting with one another.  That’s a great thing, of course, unless in doing so, you are forgetting about the six feet of separation advice (or two meters, if you prefer metric.)  That advice is important because getting just one microscopic (really nanoscopic) particle on your face or hands is enough for you to get COVID-19 and that little beast will then turn the cells of your body into little factories making more of them, so that you can sneeze them out to infect someone else.  (That can happen even if you don’t get that sick yourself from the virus.)  So, try your best to remember to social-distance when walking together on the sidewalks or interacting in groups.

What is open and what is closed

A recipient of the daily updates asked for a summary of what on campus is open and what is closed.  It’s actually hard to think of anything that is open on campus, aside from three residence halls, Woods-Penniman, and the Alumni building.   (All of those are on key-card access only.)

  • Most campus buildings are still accessible for those who normally have access to them, so that faculty and staff are able to retrieve items from their offices, etc.
  • Seabury is closed to non-occupants.
  • The Library is open digitally, and if anyone needs to check out a physical item, that is done via an email request to Calvin Gross.
  • The Help Desk is also open only digitally. You phone them for assistance (859-985-3343). Your call will go right to voicemail and that message then is forwarded to staff who will assist you.  Any campus community member needing in-person assistance can email Help_Desk@berea.edu.
  • Even the Forest trails are closed, alas.

A Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus from a member of the Music faculty

By Liza DiSavino, Assistant Professor of Music and Music Education and Director of the Folk Roots Ensemble

THE BALCONY SINGERS

As a musician,  music educator, and second generation daughter of an Italian immigrant, I have been watching what has been happening in Northern Italy with a mixture of emotions – horror at the overwhelming loss of human life and the incredible crush thrown upon health care workers, sorrow at the terrible blow to Italy’s beautiful and historic cultural center, terror at the idea that within a week we will be seeing the same kind of catastrophe here (assured now, since the country is not going on lockdown), and perhaps most of all, pride and admiration for the spirit of the Italian “balcony singers” and renewed wonder at the power of music to sustain and connect people through even the most heartbreaking of times.

We’ve all seen the videos of the “balcony singers:” entire neighborhoods singing together from their balconies, driving terror away by joining voices, armed with nothing but folk songs.  Ah, but in Italy, a folk song is not just a folk song.  These songs are bearers of ancient local memory.  In a country which did not unite until the 1860’s, that means the songs vary widely from locale to locale.   They tell different stories and recall different histories.  In Sciena, the balcony singers sang the city’s anthem “Canto della Verbena,” a song originally sung by troops in the middle ages, which contains the line, “Viva la nostra Sciena” (“Long live our Siena!”).  Who does this in the middle of a plague?  People in a country with a long memory.  They have seen it before.  They know how to get through.  These singers have made me appreciate anew how powerful music is, how it can join people together in community, hope, and identity.

In Italy, music serves as a kind of glue.  People everywhere who make music together understand that glue.  It is one of the things that brings students back to our ensembles year after year.  Making music with others is a unique kind of communication, and even of communion.  It is one of the most intimate and honest public acts, next to dancing, in which we can engage.  It takes us out of ourselves, connects us to each other and to some larger nameless reality, and breaks the bonds of time.  Music stems from the most primal of human instincts:  the need to express, the need to create, and the need to connect with others.  The necessity of fulfilling these needs is one reason why Facebook is full of videos of people videocasting themselves playing from their own living room:  music isn’t complete until it is shared.  Till then, it may be beautiful, but it’s like talking to yourself.   It’s the communion between performers and listeners that makes the cycle whole.

We don’t do much communal singing from balconies in America; we are a more diverse nation than Italy, and so music doesn’t automatically bind us with the same kind of cultural glue.  In fact, musical variety is seen by some as evidence of irreconcilable differences.  But music can indeed join us together here if we are open to it and try to understand it, even if some musics  seems different to us.  Whether conjunto, Appalachian, rap, classical, folk, gospel Native American, Middle Eastern, jazz, rock, whatever style, music can join us together.  But we have to be willing to recognize that while not each kind of music may speak to us individually, each  style does have meaning for someone else, and that meaning is to be understood and respected.  The great New England fiddler George Wilson carries a card in his case that bears a quote from his father:  “Let me never scorn any kind of music, for that music bears the soul of the person who made it.”  When we are all willing to listen and to try to understand that different musical tongues are all just different dimensions of the human experience, and that being human gives us the birthright and the responsibility to honor them all, it will be a start toward honoring and understanding each other.

So listen. Just listen.  To anything.  To everything.  We are about to go through an experience as a nation unlike anything most of us have ever encountered. We will need to engage in that deep listening, deep connection, deep patience, and deep compassion that music fosters to get us all through.

If we do, we Americans will be able to sing from our own balconies, together.

Viva la nostra Berea, y’all.

I may not have enough new information to warrant a Daily Update tomorrow.  I hope everyone has a very nice weekend.

Together still and forever,
Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Friday, March 27, 2020.

“Thy Chimes Will Ring for Me Each Day”

Following the urging of Governor Beshear, the Phelps Stokes Chapel chimes will ring at 10:00 am each day.  Many thanks to Dr. Javier Clavere for dealing with the necessary programming.

An announcement from the Berea College Forest

In response to large gatherings that have been occurring at popular hiking and outdoor activity sites, Governor Beshear has urged the closure of all such venues to the public.  The Red River Gorge is said to be closing as are most of our state parks and many outdoor city areas, as well.  The Administrative Committee has reluctantly made the decision to close temporarily the Indian Fort area and the College Forest more generally to hiking and other outdoor recreational activities.  Effective this evening at dusk, parking areas will be barricaded.  We have also had to close our outdoor basketball court.

An announcement from the Help Desk

Information Systems and Services was recently notified of several occurrences that have taken place at other institutions.  These occurrences involved college faculty/staff sharing their Zoom meeting information on social media platforms. By doing so, members of the public, who are not associated with those institutes gained access to private Zoom meetings.  Sharing your Zoom meeting information via social media is a major security risk.  Please treat all video conferencing information that you share with your colleagues and students as sensitive information.  You should only be sharing this information through email or Moodle.

To create an added layer of protection for your meetings (PDF), you can password protect a meeting, enable the waiting room, and/or lock meetings.

There is also a report in Inside Higher Ed this morning about Zoom classes being “ZoomBombed” with racist, misogynistic and vulgar language; another reason to be careful about security.

An announcement from the Campus Christian Center

For daily encouragement and spiritual support, the CCC invites you to follow the Campus Christian Center on Facebook.  We may not be together physically (and that is hard) but we can be together in mind and heart.  As one way of keeping us together, each day the Campus Christian Center staff will offer some words of inspiration and encouragement for our community. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings we will post a prayer or blessing.  Each Tuesday, we invite you to join us for a short chapel meditation via YouTube.  And, on Thursdays, check out our Interfaith Moment. 

A picture from the President’s House

Governor Beshear has also urged that we light our buildings and dwellings green at night to honor Kentuckians who have lost their lives due to the pandemic and to show concern and empathy for their suffering and the grief of their families and friends.  (Thanks to the FM staff for their assistance with this!)

President's Home lit up green

A Consumer Behavior Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

Ian Norris, Associate Professor of Marketing and Chair of Psychology

As a social psychologist that teaches marketing, I neither want to speak for the business or psychology departments broadly, so I have chosen to focus narrowly on my own academic niche.

One of the best-known findings in the interdisciplinary field of behavioral economics is that our judgments are biased. We are not purely rational economic actors that seek to maximize utility–at least in any objectively defined way–our biases shape and bend our decisions in ways that are protective, self-serving, and, under extreme circumstances, may even make us worse off in the long-run.

That is not to say they are irrational per se–they may follow a perfect logic from the right perspective. Sometimes we call this ecological rationality. Take the toilet-paper shortage and the reports of food hoarding. From a purely rational perspective, this a classic social dilemma that can be modeled with game theory. If everyone takes just their share, there is enough for all of us, but if some take more than their share, we are all worse off. In evolutionary terms, there is an inherent trade-off between the self-interest of the individual and the group, and good market structures are designed to minimize that tradeoff. But the most fundamental economic problem that we have evolved to solve is that of scarcity. Nothing sends us spiraling down the dark recesses of our reptilian brain more powerfully. There is something primal that scarcity activates in us. Why toilet paper? I could speculate as to the deep psychological significance of this basic necessity–perhaps something symbolic of our animal nature and our mortality. According to Terror Management Theory, the consumption of culture is a psychological defense mechanism against the anxiety of death. The marketing research shows that death reminders can lead to more materialistic values and luxury consumption, for instance. Covid-19 is making it tough right now to deny our mortality in the comforts and distractions of the modern world.

Perhaps the best known finding is that our emotions bias our judgments. The Nobel-prize winning psychologists (in Economics) Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman showed that when we are faced with losses, we might make riskier decisions than when faced with gains. Perhaps this is way some people–to great harm–have experimented with treating Covid-19 with as-yet medically unproven drugs. Losses are psychologically more painful than equivalent gains are pleasant, so we will take more drastic measures to eliminate them. This fear of loss has surely motivated a great deal of the sell-off in the stock market, in ways, as my colleague Nancy Sowers noted, that might harm people more in the long-run. The good news is that loss and gain are largely a matter of framing. Tversky and Kahneman’s own work shows that simply rephrasing gains as losses (e.g., 400 out of 600 lives saved vs. 200 out of 600 lives lost) can lead people to recommend riskier treatments for disease. Our judgments might not always be rational, but as Dan Ariely says, they are predictably irrational. It is this deep insight into human judgment that gives our leaders–and marketers, and anyone who controls a message–great power over human behavior.

Take precautions, hydrate, maintain appropriate social distancing!

Lyle Roelofs, President

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.

Spring beauties

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

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Wednesday, March 25, 2020.  Lots of announcements today as we continue to adjust to new guidance coming in.

An announcement from the NCAA

First year women’s basketball play Aaliyah Hampton has been named the NATIONAL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR by D3Hoops.  This is an amazing honor for Aaliyah, who was also the Player of the Year in our athletic conference, the USA South.  Congratulations, Aaliyah!!! 

An announcement from Facilities Management

Beginning tomorrow, Thursday the 25th, our FM teams will begin a rotational schedule to divide up in such a way each week that a single COVID case would not lead to a worst-case situation where the entire team might need to be isolated and unable to provide their critical and essential support to campus.  The attached PDF gives guidance as to what the reduced weekly on-site teams can be focused on and what they cannot.

Facilities Management COVID Rotational Plan (PDF)

Also, FM will cease sorting collected recycling from campus during the interim period in order to avoid infection risk, as employees and student labor who do the sorting must often sort-out discarded food and other items that now pose a much higher than usual risk.

An announcement from Dining Services

In accordance with new CDC guidelines, Sodexo will be ending beverage machine service to students when they pick up their meals and will instead be offering take-out cups with rotating choices of water, lemonade, Kool-Aid or Tea at lunch and canned soda or water at dinner.  The canned soda option may not begin for a couple of days, as we await delivery from Pepsi.

An announcement from Public Safety

Effective Thursday, March 26th Public Safety will be switching to a new schedule. Officers will run two 12 hour shifts per week. This will create two teams to help continue efficiency with Public Safety while helping to minimize the spread of COVID-19 with fewer people on campus.

An announcement from Lincoln Hall

Effective immediately, the Student Accounts window in Lincoln Hall will be open one day a week – Fridays from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM.  Email will continue to be monitored and phone calls will be forwarded during the time the Student Accounts window is closed.

News from the Madison County Emergency Management Group

Public Safety Director Provost Strong-Leek and I keep tabs on the county-wide planning for the COVID-19 emergency.  The different agencies of our local government are working well together in support of the public and the schools and hospitals.

Kentucky Colonels

In his daily press briefing yesterday Governor Beshear called special attention to and praised the work of the crews who are keeping our state capitol building clean and safe.  He has decided to make them all Kentucky Colonels!  Although I am not able commission Kentucky Colonels, we are just as grateful to the FM workers that are taking on the same task on our behalf, doing their utmost to ensure that we are as safe from contagion as possible here on campus.

On a day when we are all paying attention to the economic rescue package being prepared in Congress I have two perspectives to offer…

Perspectives on the COVID-19 Virus from the Economics and Business Department

By Nancy Sowers, Associate Professor of Finance

Covid-19, Retirement Accounts, and Black Swans:  One Economist’s Perspective

Stock markets really started to roil while our Berea community was on spring break.  From February 28 to March 20, the S&P 500 (a common index for measuring the market performance overall) decreased 21.98%.  Of course on an individual level the most important thing is our health and physical safety, but it is likely that some are looking at their retirement accounts right now with a great deal of anxiety.  The standard professional heuristic is to remember your long term plan, to sit tight and stay calm, that the average recovery period is about 24 months from a downturn.  That this advice falls flat is understandable as you watch one metric for “all you have worked for” drop precipitously.

The stock market acts as a leading indicator for the economy overall, which means that it typically tells us what will happen to the economy about six months ahead.  But what we are seeing now is a black swan event.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb teaches us that a black swan event is “highly improbable with massive consequences.”  Covid-19 appears to be the perfect example of this and, unfortunately, our financial models neither anticipate such events nor handle the effects well.  As market shock turns to economic shock, we are all watching the economic situation unfold for the people we love, the friends we care about, and the students we have helped to develop over four years.

The silver lining here is that the Federal Reserve is moving more quickly with more tools than ever before to assure liquidity in the markets today.  American ingenuity will rise as firms adjust their production to meet the shortfall of supplies so desperately needed in our hospitals.  Toyota is donating industrial grade respirators; Hanes will make masks instead of underwear; our distilleries will shift to making hand sanitizer instead of bourbon.  Volatility will play into the recovery too.  Keep in mind that the people that cashed out their retirements in the last market downturn missed 6 of the 10 best days of market recovery and the start to a strong decade of market growth (PlanPILOT).  The market on Tuesday (03/24/20) supports the idea that when the market does come back, the rebound is likely to catch us by surprise too.

An Information Systems & Data Analytics’ Business Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

By Jacci Boggs, Assistant Professor of Information Systems Management & Data Analytics

Information Systems (IS), including computers, cell phones, video conferencing, streaming video, etc.  along with Data Analytics have become an increasingly important tool with the COVID-19 virus.  In many cases, some of us are interacting with IS more in the past few weeks than we ever have in the course of our careers.  We are now analyzing and digesting data in greater detail and with increased scrutiny than before the pandemic occurred.  The fact of the matter is, we need IS and Data Analytics more than ever to keep us informed, updated, and alive in these challenging times.

People are using IS to re-connect with family, friends, loved ones and to maintain critical business functions.  The use of video chat gives us the ability to feel connected to our loved ones.  Video conferencing allows us to interact with students and continue important meetings.  Streaming video allows churches to hold religious services.  Indeed Zoom (ZM) is one of the few companies doing well on the stock market this year, growing approximately 133% year to date.  The truth is, this pandemic would be much more difficult to handle without the use of IS.

Although staying connected through IS and the daily diet of Data Analysis may seem daunting to some, it highlights an important message for both faculty and students.  These tools have become a necessary part of our daily existence.  More than ever, we are relying on IS to teach our classes, create community, connect with loved ones, find important health information, hold business meetings and get daily updates on the relevant statistics of the virus.  Rather than allowing ourselves to get overwhelmed with these tools facilitating our everyday life, we must embrace them as our new normal.  Just remember to maintain a healthy balance to help overcome information overload.  Read data in small doses, take frequent breaks when utilizing electronic means of communication, take an hour per day away from your cell phone, information systems and data analysis.  Above all, stay safe, healthy, alert and informed.

Stay positive and keep up with all recommended protective measures.  We’ll get through this!

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

Social distancing

Yesterday I mentioned my appreciation for Governor Beshear, and he said something in his daily press briefing yesterday that seemed worth passing along, “Social distancing does not mean social isolation.”  His point, of course, being that isolation is not good for any of us, so we should continue to communicate with our friends and family via social media and in-person if that’s possible.  He also stressed, regarding those in-person interactions, that we respect the advice of the CDC to maintain that six foot distance of separation.

An announcement from the Labor Program

The Labor Program office wanted me to remind everyone that student labor is still going on and classes are still in session.  I had been thinking that everyone knew that, but if I’m wrong, consider yourself reminded.

A Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus from the Department of Religion

By Jeff B. Pool, Chairperson, Department of Religion, Eli Lilly Chair in Religion and Culture, and Professor of Religion

Various religions and other spiritualities offer numerous explanations for the realities of illness, pain, suffering, and death, as well as ways in which to respond to those realities.  Because traditions in all religious and spiritual communities contain many diverse and sometimes even conflicting layers, some layers of traditions offer greater wisdom for life and its challenges than other layers.  Some representatives of theistic traditions have described viruses as “evil” and illnesses as “judgments” from God on specific groups of people for their “sins,” which then have produced corresponding judgments on those groups of people as the sources of the problems for which God purportedly has inflicted illness, suffering, and death on humanity at large.  Other representatives of the same theistic traditions, however, have interpreted such human health-crises differently: understanding viruses, as well as other natural threats to human life, as part of the larger world that God has created; describing illnesses and diseases as the natural interactive conflicts among creatures that endeavor in their own ways to survive and to propagate themselves (a tragic reality, understood as the conflict among various goods, rather than “evil” in opposition to the anthropocentrically-defined “supreme good” of human life); and, as a result, encouraging sharply different forms of human responses to such challenges to human life.

At their best, the diverse traditions of religious communities and other spiritual traditions regard such multi-dimensional health-crises for human life as genuine opportunities for both personal and social transformation.  For numerous spiritualities, such critical situations guide and encourage people both to discern that which they can control in order to work toward change and to release their attachments to that which they cannot control in order to consent to that which they cannot change.  Various layers of Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and many other spiritual traditions teach that such challenges to life offer possibilities for deepening human character, for either instilling or reinforcing important human virtues: gratitude for all that each person has received, understanding life itself as gift; trust in the meaningfulness of life, despite the challenges that inevitably arise; equanimity and peacefulness in the midst of turmoil and chaos; humility; compassion for all creatures; an attitude of non-judgment toward other people; a passion for social justice and reciprocity in a profoundly interdependent world; generosity toward and hospitality for people in dire circumstances; and even joy in the experiences of both severe suffering and grief over losses that result from that suffering.

Many of the same religions and other spiritual traditions also develop practices through which to develop human character: meditative techniques, physical exercises, contemplation, and prayer, among many other methods.  For example, in the current global crisis, people might view very differently even the supposedly restrictive measures that various levels of society have prudently imposed on or recommended to communities and individuals in order to address this health-crisis.  Rather than construing such measures (“social-distancing,” sequestering, even meticulous “hand-washing”) as limitations on human freedoms or “rights,” people might understand the practice of such measures as practical exercises, even as rituals or prayers, to develop the virtues that will shape their character and that will enable them to contribute to changing the world as they now experience it.

(I particularly enjoyed Dr. Pool’s creative suggestion that we consider some of the good advice for taking care of ourselves during the COVID-19 crisis, as something like religious practice.)

Stay safe!

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Monday, March 23, 2020.

Announcement from College Square

In response to the Governor’s order from yesterday, we will be closing all retail operations, including the Loghouse, the College Store and Printing Services.  The latter will continue to serve College needs.

Props:

Speaking of Governor Beshear, props to him for his calm leadership of the Commonwealth of Kentucky throughout this crisis.  If you’ve been tuning in to his 5:00 daily press briefings, you’ve been seeing a confident, forward-thinking, intelligent and empathetic person doing his utmost for everyone in our state.

An announcement from Berea Kids Eat

Last week Berea Kids Eat served 9500 meals in 4 days.  To better protect everyone’s health they are instituting some changes in service for this week.  Those announcements will be conveyed through Berea Community School.

An announcement from Financial Aid

Last week I announced that the Student Financial Aid Services Office would be open through lunch for a couple of weeks.  As of today, the office will no longer be open.  However, if you need a Social Insurance (SNAP, food stamps) letter or something else, please send a message to FINAID@berea.edu.  Office staff are still available 8a – 5p, M-F by email, or you can leave a message on the office phone.

An Historian’s Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

By Rob Foster, Professor of Asian Studies and History

On the last day of in-class instruction, one of my students asked what I thought of our current situation. What came immediately to mind is a book I use in the History capstone: Paul Cohen’s History in Three Keys: The Boxer Rebellion as Event, Experience, and Myth. Historians always approach their topic with hindsight, and often from generations of separation from the event. We have the leisure to gather sources to analyze an event from multiple perspectives to explain how something occurred and what the ramifications were. Cohen points out that those sources often come from people immersed in the experience. In Cohen’s case, the study was of the anti-foreign, anti-Christian movement in China from 1899 to 1901. He drew upon the letters and diaries of Western missionaries, Chinese officials, personal accounts from members of the Boxer movement, Western soldiers, etc.

The accounts of the experiencers demonstrate two things that seem simple: first, the future is unknown, and therefore a cause for uncertainty; second, that expressions of uncertainty lead to anxieties and hopes that are shaped by the society and culture in which one is raised. Missionaries tended to reflect upon the tribulations of Biblical figures and God’s will. Chinese couched the experience in terms of cleansing the land of a foreign religion that angered their gods, leading to drought and famine. Western soldiers drew analogies to Western literature about military valor (and often racist tropes about “Orientals”). Chinese Boxer practices were often influenced by tales of heroes related through village opera performances (a genre that influenced Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and by a China-centered xenophobia.

Anxiety, hope, and uncertainty generated rumors. Rumors stoked fear (Christians were poisoning wells) or wish fulfillment (Western armies were about to rescue trapped Christians), again couched in cultural terms familiar to the experiencers.

Yet the event of the Boxers did not only generate negative experiences. There are accounts of great kindness and help from unexpected quarters, of people who put themselves at risk to help strangers from their own and other cultures.

We can see many of these patterns in our experiences today. Different societies have responded to the pandemic in different ways. I have been struck by the American propensity for self-reliance that, when taken to extremes, leads to hoarding. I may be wrong, but I have not seen similar accounts from other nations. Some argue that the reason South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have been able to somewhat stem the tide of contagion is due to a strong sense of individual responsibility to the community. There is no doubt that Americans also have a sense of responsibility (our health care workers are doing tremendous things at great personal risk). But there is also a strain of “don’t tell me what to do,” as in the case of the Kentucky man who tested positive, but refused to self-quarantine. He now has a police guard.

In responding to my student’s question in our last classroom session, I noted that this event would be studied for decades, if not centuries. History is not predictive. We are not “doomed to repeat” the past. However, patterns of the past may suggest possible outcomes depending upon actions taken in the present. People are currently revisiting the 1918 flu pandemic to see what worked and what did not. Questions are being raised about whether less liberal governments (the People’s Republic of China) are better equipped to deal with national crises than more liberal governments (Italy, and, perhaps, the United States). In response, I would point to South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan—liberal democracies that have emerged from cultures with strong communitarian values.

We won’t know for years to come what the ramifications of this event will be. How will it shape the 2020 elections? How will it influence the debates regarding a national health-care system, or the social responsibility of the wealthy in relation to those less fortunate? These are pressing questions for the present. How we answer them will be the grist for historians’ analyses in future generations. And those historians will argue about which cultural tendencies came to the fore in a time of crisis. For us, will we turn to xenophobia or openness? Will a sense of cohesive civic responsibility or one of fragmenting individualism be the pervasive response?

Whatever happens, future generations will create national myths about this event. Cohen characterizes myths as representations (usually inaccurate) of the past in service of current political agendas. In China, the myths are already coalescing around the guiding wisdom of the Communist Party (though there is also a great deal of dissent). Will our myths be tinged by individual heroism, or by the general American distrust of expertise? Our students’ students will decide and debate these questions.

Stay safe!

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Sunday, March 22, 2020.

COVID-19 local status

We have been notified of no additional cases in Madison County, beyond the one mentioned in the Update to the Daily Update yesterday.  That individual is hospitalized at Baptist Health in Richmond and has been there since Thursday.  No word on his or her condition.

I have no further announcements for today, but am sharing the following items, both of which deal with the very unfortunate impacts of the coronavirus epidemic that we can anticipate for Appalachia.

Why the coronavirus couldn’t have come at a worse time for reeling Appalachian Kentucky (shared by Teresa Kash Davis, Associate Vice President for Major Gifts and a native of Menifee County)

An Appalachian Studies Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

By Chris Green, Director Loyal Jones Appalachian Center and Associate Professor of Appalachian Studies

I’m going to consider four adjoining congressional districts (cds) in Central Appalachia: KY’s 5th, WV’s 3rd, VA’s 9th, and TN’s 1st.   Due to this area’s much-higher average age, lack of wealth, and lack of access to health care, these cds are medically imperiled, with a low life expectancy. KY’s 5th and WV’s 3rd are the lowest in the nation, with VA’s 9th placing 30th from the bottom and TN’s 1st at 37th (“Mapping”).

Three articles I reviewed highlight the following problems and opportunities.

  • It’s not a matter of “if” COVID-19 will spread to these areas, it’s a matter of when.
  • Although there are fewer doctors in the area, physicians’ voices matter more to the community.  However, mass communication around public health is more difficult because of lack of internet and daily newspapers.  Much of the population, which voted strongly Republican, also distrusts the government even as they depend upon it. (Estes)
  • The number of rural hospitals have dramatically decreased in the last decade, yet remaining hospitals have open beds even if they lack ICUs and are removed from the distribution of medical equipment necessary to work with COVID-19. (Simpson; Wright and Estep)

Sources

We’re sending blessing and warm thoughts!

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Saturday, March 21, 2020

Beginning with a general, still positive, announcement:

Provost Strong-Leek and I have been taking turns participating in the daily briefing of Madison County’s Emergency Management team, convened by our Judge Executive, Reagan Taylor.  We are happy to report that there are to this point no confirmed cases in our county and that local officials are very actively involved in developing plans and procuring the necessary materials and equipment, should we eventually have an outbreak in our area.

Update to this note at 12:23 p.m.:

Dear Bereans,

I had only just sent the update for today, when the announcement below arrived.

It appears that this first case does not pose particular danger for us in Berea, but it is reasonable to expect that there will now be other reports, locally.  We will be monitoring the situation carefully.

Pr. Roelofs

Announcement from the AC

The next necessary actions we are anticipating relate to further restrictions on operations due either to a government order similar to what has been enacted so far in Washington, California, New York, Illinois and Connecticut or to the confirmation of a case in the community.  We are developing the necessary plans.

A Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus from the Nursing Department

By Dr. Monica Kennison, RN, Susan V. Clayton Chair of Nursing and Chair and Professor of Nursing

Over three million nurses in the U.S. workforce are on the frontlines caring for patients with COVID-19 and preventing its spread in hospitals, schools, homes and communities. We are trained and at the ready to respond to healthcare crises as part of our job, that is what we signed up for when we became licensed.  To that end, we follow the Centers for Disease Control, health department and federal guidelines that, as we all know, are rapidly changing.

I am not afraid of COVID-19. I am hopeful. While much more contagious than the influenza virus, nurses, alongside the entire U.S. healthcare force, have diligently implemented interdisciplinary best-evidence-available plans to combat COVID-19 just as we did in 2003 when the novel Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus emerged and again in 2009 when a novel influenza virus, H1N1, emerged. Both became national and global pandemics. Nurses are adapting, connecting, advocating and, as always, stepping up and prevailing.

How to protect yourself

A Literary Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

By Dr. Steve Gowler, Chester D. Tripp Chair in Humanities and Professor of General Studies

As I watch the evening news these days, I am relieved when a politician or journalist relinquishes the microphone to a public health official.  Nearly always, these experts who have devoted their lives to keeping us safe and healthy speak with refreshing candor and precision.  They remind me of Dr. Rieux, the protagonist of Albert Camus’s great novel The Plague (La Peste). A work of allegorical fiction, The Plague describes a 1940s outbreak of the bubonic plague in the port city of Oran, Algeria. Unlike COVID-19, the plague is bacterial rather than viral, but both are highly contagious, share many symptoms, and all too often are fatal. Early in the novel, city leaders are reluctant to admit the plague is present and to implement a quarantine. Finally, though, they yield to the expertise of Dr. Rieux.  He’s an unlikely hero and, like many heroes, he would adamantly deny the label.  What makes him exemplary stems from a concise set of intellectual virtues: clear-eyed acknowledgment of facts, steadfast persistence in the face of difficult circumstances, and straight talk. Like the health professionals guiding us today, Dr. Rieux reminds us that our individual and collective well-being depends upon something rare and powerful—truth-telling.

(A P.S. to this elegant and compact perspective: the noted conservative columnist George Will wrote on the same theme on the same day as I received this piece from Steve, but I don’t think that either borrowed from the other.  You can find Will’s less elegant and compact version by Googling George Will column the Plague.)

Stay safe, everyone!

Lyle Roelofs, President

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

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Thursday, March 19.

An announcement from the Campus Christian Center

College Chaplains will continue to offer daily spiritual support through our CCC Facebook page.  Please join us for:

  • A written prayer each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning on CCC Facebook.
  • Tuesday Chapel Meditation via YouTube
  • Thursday Interfaith Moment via YouTube or FB

For encouragement and spiritual support, please follow the Campus Christian Center on Facebook.

College Chaplains are available via email and telephone.  Wherever you are—you are not alone.  Together, we can do this hard thing.

An announcement from Public Safety

Public Safety is shifting to card access for their office.  Persons who need assistance should call their office (859-985-3333) to get their assistance.  They will also be providing a box for key drop off, instead of having folks come in to drops off keys.

An announcement regarding the housing and meal refund

Some students have asked when they can expect the housing and meal refund to be disbursed.  We are planning/aiming to process those refunds on Friday, March 27.  Please note that the refund will be applied to the student account; if that creates a credit balance on the account, a check or direct deposit in the amount of the credit balance will be issued to the student.

Access to Alumni Building

As of noon today, Alumni Hall will be card access only. Please be sure to have your ID card with you to get into the building. Public Safety confirmed that everyone’s card should have access to be able to enter the building. Should you have any issues, do not hesitate to reach out Public Safety.

General Access to Campus Buildings

For both safety and risk management Public Safety is locking all buildings to keep unauthorized visitors out.  Entrance will be by card key only.  As our campus has de-populated, we may become a target for the unscrupulous.

Follow up announcement from the CDL

During this mandated shut-down of the CDL, many parents may have questions regarding their CDL tuition payments.  Whether by self-pay or the College’s payroll deduction system, the CDL does not expect payment for an emergency shutdown. These days are treated the same as days closed for inclement weather; they are credited to a parent’s account.  There will be seven days in March (March 23-27 and 30-31) in which the CDL will be closed. Those who have already paid through the month of March will receive this credit with the first charge when we return.  Those who decided to decline childcare in March while working from home, when the CDL was open, will be credited the same seven days as those who attended.  CDL tuition is based on enrollment and paid when services are available and a child is enrolled. Going forward in this shut-down, tuition will not be required until the governor releases this mandate and the CDL reopens. At that time, the credit for seven days will be applied to the first charge for those parents who paid for March in full.  For those parents with College Flex, these deductions are out of our control, as these are arranged with Human Resources.  Please contact HR with those questions.

Also, during this temporary shutdown, the CDL has learned from Frankfort that parents with Child Care Assistance (CCA) will continue to receive this subsidy as long as the closure is mandated and the child remains enrolled at the CDL.  The Division of Child Care will pay all fees in full to the CDL, including all copayments.  Since, CCA will pay copayments, all College-related payroll deductions for copays were stopped mid-March going forward.  This will continue until the CDL receives notice from Frankfort.

Any child who is currently enrolled will keep their spot regardless of the duration of this closure. However, we do ask that when the CDL reopens to please let the CDL administration know if your child will not be returning for care, or should care need to be delayed. We do enjoy serving the kids and our CDL families and will miss all of you; we will have many stories to share when we return!

A suggestion for your consideration

This is a time of great adjustment for everyone and I have been amazed so far with the creativity and flexibility I’ve seen, even as folks are doing there utmost still to carry our all of their specific duties and to contribute to our overall mission.  At this point I want to urge that we not expect perfection in our own efforts or those of other Bereans.  I guess I am saying that in this challenging time, we can grade ourselves and one another on the curve.  (For that reason you can give me a pass for the incorrect usage of “there” in this announcement, or for any of the other typos that were not intentional.)

Faculty have responded with enthusiasm to my invitation to contribute learning opportunities for us.  It is my great pleasure to include two for your interest in this issue of the Daily update.

A Biophysics Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

by Troy Messina, Chair and Associate Professor of Physics

Structure-function relationships are a cornerstone of science. From the metal that makes our cars impact- and rust-resistant to the pharmaceuticals that relieve us from various maladies, functions emerge and can be manipulated to our technological advantage from understanding structure at the atomic and molecular level. For many biomolecules, solving the atomic-level structure can take years because of the difficulty obtaining a highly organized crystal.  However, Zhang, B., Zhao, Y., Jin, Z., Liu, X., Yang, H., Rao, Z., scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) quickly isolated, crystallized, and solved the structure of the COVID-19 protease, the viral protein enzyme responsible for breaking apart our bodily proteins as part of the infection cycle. The structure was released on March 11, 2020 to the Protein Data Bank. The availability of these molecular structures are likely to go a long way toward our ability to inhibit their disease-causing functions in the future. For your viewing pleasure, here is a video of the structure.

A Peace and Social Justice Perspective on the COVID-19 Virus

by Meta Mendel-Reyes, Associate Professor of Peace and Social Justice and Chair of Division VI

From a PSJ perspective, the pandemic and the global response to it highlight the distance between our aspirations to peace and social justice and the reality of violence and social injustice. While the virus itself does not distinguish along lines of difference, except for age and chronic disease, your chances of survival are greatly affected by group membership.  A white, wealthy man living in the global North who contracts COVID-19 is much more likely to recover than a poor female woman of color living in the global South. The pandemic reveals the price of inequality – it is literally a matter of life or death. In terms of COVID-19, inequality takes many forms, including access to affordable healthcare, poverty, refugee and immigrant status, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the effectiveness of leadership and government. All of these are exacerbated by violence – global wars, civil wars, and communities dominated by those with the weapons. Defeating COVID-19 will require both medicine and movements, both social distancing and collective action for structural change.

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Wednesday, March 18.  Again, there is quite a lot to report.

Announcement from the CDL

Our Governor has mandated that day care centers in Kentucky close no later than this Friday.  CDL Director Amanda Messer has decided to close at the end of the day on Friday.  She wanted me to share on her behalf “how wonderful it is that we have a staff and a college that has provided such wonderful and consistent care to our young children though uncertainty.”  At this point the closure is indefinite, but we will be monitoring the situation so that we can re-open as soon as permitted by the authorities and we have confirmed ourselves that it is safe to do so.

Announcement from the Financial Aid Office

Financial Aid Director Theresa Lowder has arranged for her staff to have the office open from 11:30a to 1:30p, M-F for a couple of weeks.  If students need SNAP letters or other items, they will be there to assist.  The hope is that scheduling during lunch hour would be the most convenient for students needing to come in.

A poignant reaction to the 2020 Graduation photo I shared yesterday

“A dear friend of mine whom I was going to visit this week in Boston used the phrase “missed future memory” to describe our not being together.”  That novel phrase captures well the feeling of knowing we will be missing out on the best shared day we have every year at Berea College.  We’re busily creating another, quite unique, set of memories, of course, and when we have had a chance to celebrate 300+ Berea success stories, I hope we will feel like we’ve found that missing memory.

A note from Facilities Management

Staff and faculty who are remaining on campus and need spray disinfectant to use on campus can contact the FM storeroom (via the store room order tab on the FM website) and will be able to order and pick up a spray bottle filled with Virex solution.  It can be used exactly like spray Lysol and used on the same surfaces and is on the EPA list of acceptable disinfectants for Covid19.  They can also purchase a roll of paper towels for their office if needed.   FM will begin filling these bottles tomorrow, but only have about 30 bottles on hand.  Luke will order another 50 or so.   We are dangerously low on Lysol/Clorox type wipes and sprays and are saving our reserve of those for very specific needs.

From Counseling Services

  • Those students who were patients of Rachel are able to receive a refill for 1 month. Contact Counseling Services for information, 859-985-3212;
  • Counseling will continue to be open for students living on campus and the Eco Village but will have limited face to face contact;
  • Counseling will do a 15-minute phone check-in with clients, these are not counseling sessions, only check-ins to gauge how the student is doing and to provide them with some tips and encouragement;
  • Students can call the Counseling Center if they feel the need for a 15-minute phone check-in; 859-985-3212.

We are a learning community

First and foremost, we are a learning community and it occurred to me that together we have a lot of knowledge about epidemics and our current situation, and, as well, of course, a lot of knowledge about many other things.  Learning communities are eager to share with one another and so I have invited academic departments to share perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic from the point of view of their scholarly disciplines, promising to share their submissions unedited for the benefit of all.  I’ll include one such piece each day until they stop coming.  In the meantime, we also have a lot of knowledge and expertise in other areas of our organization, so I hereby extend that invitation to anyone with something to share, perspectives on this situation that might be of value to your fellow Bereans.  I am suggesting a word length of 200 words, and if you count carefully, the first submission I am running below missed that target by only about 250%.  However, in my read, I didn’t find anything I judged you wouldn’t be interested in, and, anyway, I did say, unedited.

An Asian Studies perspective on COVID-19

by Jeff Richey, Chair and Professor of Asian Studies

This is not the first time that a devastating disease has spread from East Asia to the rest of the world.  Like the “Black Death” of the 14thcentury and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS (2003), the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that metamorphosed into the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have originated in China.  Because of these diseases’ associations with China, there has been an unfortunate tendency to blame such outbreaks on Chinese people and culture.  Incidents of verbal and physical harassment and abuse aimed at persons perceived to be Chinese have spiked worldwide, especially in the United States.  These racist acts, as well as President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” to describe COVID-19, don’t limit the spread of the disease, but they do transmit antiquated racial hatreds that last reached pandemic levels in the 19th century, when U.S. and European media and politicians routinely described China as “the sick man of Asia.”  The Chinese “are uncivilized, unclean, filthy beyond all conception,” raved a New York Daily Tribune on September 29, 1854.  When contemporary media outlets falsely report that Chinese eating “bat soup” (a dish considered revolting by most Chinese and Americans alike) are to blame for COVID-19, they are reviving racist stereotypes that not only go back to the anti-Chinese fever that plagued 19th century America, but also to an even earlier wave of anti-foreign sentiment in the U.S.: prejudice against the Irish.

Nearly all of the negative tropes used to describe the Chinese were recycled from epithets originally devised to libel Irish immigrants, who represented 1/3 of foreigners settling in the U.S. between 1820 and 1860.  These anti-Irish tropes now have been recycled twice: first, to fuel the anti-Chinese sentiment that led to the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (the first U.S. immigration law that excluded an entire ethnic group not only from entry, but also from eligibility for U.S. citizenship), and now, to scapegoat the Chinese for the COVID-19 pandemic that has encircled the globe.  Ancient diseases such as bubonic plague and acute respiratory syndromes are tough to beat, but ancient hatreds have proven to be even more resilient.  COVID-19 is a culture-blind virus, but demonizing the “other” as unclean and diseased has a long and specific cultural history in the West.

In fact, we have much to learn from East Asian cultures about how to contain and stop this terrible illness.   The Confucian ethic of society before self has enabled effective collective action to take place in China, South Korea, and Taiwan, where recoveries from COVID-19 now outnumber active cases, which have steadily fallen in number over the past month.  However, Confucius himself said, “When you see a worthy person, think of becoming like him.  When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.” (Analects 4:17)  It’s also true that Confucian values such as fear of public shame may have inhibited the spread of information about the disease when it first appeared, a development that unfortunately coincided with end-of-the-year regional reporting to China’s central government, when local officials typically strive to present the best possible picture to Beijing.  Just as we can learn from the collective spirit of East Asian efforts to stop COVID-19’s spread, we also can learn from the tragic suppression of information that thwarted China’s early attempts to contain the disease before public-minded sentiments prevailed.

Dear Bereans,

This is the update for Tuesday, March 17.

From the Campus Christian Center

Please find attached some guidance for caring for yourself and others in troubled times.

Before they left campus last week, many members of the graduating class of 2020 gathered for the traditional class photo on the steps of Union College Church.  It was inspiring to all of us that they chose not to let a little thing like a pandemic stop them from enjoying their classmates and finding a way to celebrate their upcoming success and mark this tradition.  Please know, Class of 2020, that we will not miss the opportunity of celebrating your accomplishments, even if, this year, it cannot immediately follow the end of the academic year.  (Many thanks to Crystal Wylie for taking this and many other photos at the occasion.)

Class of 2020 on the steps of Union Church

Housing and Meals reimbursements for students who moved out from the residence halls

The Administrative Committee has authorized a refund of $1,000 to residence hall students who have left campus.  Students continuing to reside on campus will continue to have access to their existing meal plan from the Dining Hall.  Students working on campus voluntarily and not residing on campus will not be eligible to continue to use their meal plan from Dining.  Students working, but not residing on campus, do have the option to eat from Dining by paying the daily door rate for walk-up customers.  The refund will be applied to the student account; if that creates a credit balance on the account, a check or direct deposit in the amount of the credit balance will be issued to the student.

An announcement from Berea Kids Eat – a program of Grow Appalachia

Today Berea Kids Eat served 1496 meals. Meals from Berea College dining were directly distributed through a drive up meal service at Berea Community School. With the help of Berea Community School and Partners for Education, we were able to develop systems, a communication plan, and launch a smooth first day. The Health Department and White House Clinic provided on site hygiene training, and we implemented hourly protocols and regular practices which we aim to serve as models. Tomorrow Berea Kids Eat and Berea Community School will launch the mobile bus distribution into neighborhoods, following a strict sanitation and hygiene protocol, and no physical contact along with physical and social distancing protocols.  Many thanks to Martina Leforce for leading this important initiative!

An announcement from the Office of Internships

The Internship Office acknowledges that this will be a very different year for summer internships.  It is responding to the changed circumstances by working remotely with students through phone appointments, email and Handshake to provide assistance, review offers and process requests for credit and funding. Under the circumstances their guidelines have been modified.

  • Given the uncertainties that employers are facing, as well as those related to travel, internship start dates should not be earlier than June 1, except by specific exception granted by the Office of Internships. The June 1st start date will provide some time for employers to adjust and allow 4-6 weeks for interns to make their housing and travel plans after receiving any applicable funding (between April 15th and May 1st).
  • This year, students should submit their offers via email to internships@berea.edu by March 31, and then they will have until the April 14th deadline for internship proposals (which has remained unchanged) to complete the rest of the process.
  • The Internship Office encourages students who have applied for internships and are waiting to hear back, to reach out to the employer, inquire about their status, and let them know that, because everything is being handled remotely, offers are required by March 31st.

An announcement regarding the Seabury and Forestry Outreach Centers

  • In light of the advice that is now coming out in many parts of the country to close gyms, Seabury Center will be closed indefinitely.
  • Because larger groups than the current recommended limit of 10 sometimes visit the Forestry Outreach Center and because it is not possible to clean adequately after each visitor, the Forestry Outreach Center will be closing as well.  The staff does plan to continue to offer hikes for Berea College students, when the weather permits.  Regrettably, because of theft of bath tissue and subsequent unfortunate behavior, we are also having to close the public restrooms outside the Center

Dear Bereans,

Here are some updates from the AC for Monday, March 16.

The AC asks all those who are participating in non-essential gatherings on campus of any size to discontinue effective immediately.  Organizers of such activities are encouraged to explore virtual, non-in-person options.

Important announcement from Sodexo

Sodexo is making a change nationally to carry-out service only for everyone served in their dining facilities.  (This is to enhance social distancing by reducing the number of people dining together.)  Students and others eating through Dining will now go to pick up their choice of food placed into a portable and discardable container and will take that food elsewhere to eat.  This change is effective at dinner this evening.

An item from the Center for International Education

Most of our students who were studying abroad have already been recalled to the US.  Today the decision was made to repatriate the few remaining students who were studying in countries where there had so far been less concern.

A request from the Campus Post Office

Miss Bev is asking that folks try to avoid ordering large packages for delivery to the CPO at this time due to reduced staffing there.

It’s not the first epidemic the College has dealt with!  The following was passed along by retiree Melissa Osborne:

This is an excerpt from an email from a fellow BC retiree, sharing her support for what we are doing and a historical perspective from another time:

I was so very proud of how the college handled this.  Can you imagine trying to cope if we had even one kid get the virus?  In 1957 when we got back from Christmas and the beginning of final exams there was a flu epidemic on campus.  The ‘dorm directors’ had to care for their students until the fever was over 100 and then drive them to the hospital.  The hospital was running over and beds lined the hallways.  After the fever was back down to 100 for 24 hours we were transported to the gyms where they had cots set up so close together the nurses could hardly get in between.  We stayed there until we were normal for 24 hours.  It was not a very happy time, but at least we had the hospital and less students.  I can’t imagine what it would be like now.

An announcement of possible interest from the Enterprise Rental Car company

Enterprise Rent-A-Car® is offering College Student Travel Assistance in response to the closing of colleges and universities due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.

We are reducing the minimum age and waiving young renter fees for rentals through May 31, 2020, to help students get home safely and ease the burden on families during this time.

Details

  • Available to college students 18–24 years of age
  • Official student ID must be presented at the time of rental
  • Valid on Economy through Fullsize cars, Minivans, Small Pickup Trucks and Cargo Vans
  • Valid at U.S. locations only for rentals reserved in advance
  • Standard driver and credit requirements apply (excluding minimum age)
  • Expires May 31, 2020

A message of encouragement from the Dean of the Chapel

Dear Berea Family,

As I walk through Draper and around campus this morning, I think of each member of the Berea family—wherever you are.  Know that you are held in thought and in prayer.

May you find peace in the midst of uncertainty,
hope in times of despair,
light in the darkness,
connection in the time of physical distance,
strength in the time of anxiety and fear,
love and kindness when we need it the most.

If you have a concern or simply want to talk, I am available via email, text, Messenger, or phone.  In our new and constantly-changing reality, I offer some ideas for caring for yourself and for others.

In Peace and Hope,

Loretta
Rev. Loretta Reynolds, D. Theol.
Dean of the Chapel, Berea College
reynoldslo@berea.edu

I am happy to report that the move-out process was completed in an effective and orderly fashion on Saturday.  Kudos to the Student Life staff and labor students who worked so hard to make this complex operation work so smoothly.  I am especially appreciative of all the students who managed their own personal moves, having just three days to do so.

For Staff Employees

I am also grateful to the faculty for their cooperation in making extraordinary plans to offer the academic program for the remainder of the semester so that all course work can be completed.  With these arrangements nearly in place, the Administrative Committee has turned its attention to the well-being of our loyal and hardworking staff members, who are also essential to the mission of Berea College.

The Administrative Committee met this afternoon and has made some important decisions that I now share with the entire campus community.

  • Effective Tuesday, March 17, all staff who can complete their work responsibilities from home and who have adequate Internet access at their home, will be encouraged to telecommute.  This follows guidance from public health officials and our state government in seeking to minimize the number of staff on campus, thus protecting all of us.  If you need guidance on whether your particular job responsibilities are such that you can telecommute, your vice president will be available to work with you tomorrow (Monday).
    • IS&S will be available to assist with matters relating to taking your computer and peripherals home and ensuring applications function from there.
    • Staff with labor supervision duties on campus will need to continue to report to work on campus.
    • Please note that these arrangements will continue in effect only for the duration of the current health emergency that has been declared in the United States.  Upon its conclusion, the Administrative Committee will advise all employees when they can resume working on campus.  If conditions worsen and the civil authorities further limit our operations, the Administrative Committee will provide further guidance to the campus community.
  • For staff whose responsibilities require them to be on campus, we thank you for your necessary service.  We also wish to recognize this service with additional consideration.  Specifically, those who are required to serve on campus during the current emergency will receive an additional vacation day for each full week worked.  These earned vacation days will be “Appreciation Days,” meaning that they can be accumulated in excess of the standard maximum accrual of 240 hours.
  • In addition, every employee working full days on campus (whether able to telecommute or not) will be eligible to receive a free Sodexo box lunch.  (Please do not come in just for the lunch—this benefit is only for folks working a full day on campus.)  It will take a little time to get this set up, so we’re hoping this benefit will begin on Wednesday, March 18.  More on that later.
  • Finally, we are considering the possibility, perhaps the likelihood, of additional adjustments that will need to take place if and when we have a confirmed case on campus.  There are no plans for layoffs of any College employees.
    • At that point, only essential employees will be expected to report to work on campus.
    • We recognize as well that the particularity of the risk factors associated with COVID-19 make it important to provide additional protection for workers who are in a particular age category as well as those with other risk factors.  If and when we have a confirmed case on campus, we hope to put on place arrangements to protect those at greater risk.  For now, vice presidents are working on contingency plans that will enable us to maintain essential operations while allowing employees in the at-risk categories to be excused.
    • Please know that we intend to make these adjustments without requiring unpaid leaves for those affected by these preventative measures.
    • We are also prepared to comply with all the provisions of the forthcoming Family First legislation that should emerge from the U.S. government within the next day or two.  At minimum we are anticipating that additional paid sick leave will be mandated.
    • Finally, please know that as previously announced, any employees for whom mandatory self-quarantine has been imposed, this will not count against the sick leave provided through our employee benefit program.

Regarding Student Labor

Questions have also emerged as to student labor during this period.  It may be helpful to understand the following categorization and requirements.

First, the categorizations and associated expectations…

  • Category I – Students who did not relocate as a result of this situation, whether living on campus, in the Eco Village, or with permission to live off campus

All students in Category I are expected to complete their labor obligations and may be re-assigned to other positions based on the need for essential services.

  • Category II – Students who did relocate but live within commuting distance of the College and who wish to work for the College

All students in Category II may make themselves available for work assignments at the College.  They may be re-assigned from their current work to other positions based on the need for essential services.  Students in Category II are reminded as well, that they continue to be eligible for any meal plans they have paid for.

  • Category III – Students who did relocate but have skills essential for particular positions of value to the College and work in positions that can be handled in a telecommuting arrangement

Category III students may be invited to continue their work for the College on a remote basis.  A requirement will be that such a student has sufficient Internet access where they are living.

Next, the requirements.  (All the following apply only for the duration of the present emergency situation)

  • All students working for the College in categories I, II, & III will be compensated at the summer rate of $8.75/hour.
  • All students working for the College in categories I & II will be expected to work a minimum of 10 hours/week and up to a maximum of 20 hours/week, depending on the willingness of the student and the needs of the position.
  • All students working for the College in category III can work for any amount of time per week between 1 and 20 hours/week.
  • All students in none of the above categories will be compensated at the rate they were being paid in their campus position, prior to relocation.

Please note that the Administrative Committee is continuing to evaluate the need for other non-essential student labor positions on campus.  There may be further announcements regarding opportunities for student labor later in the coming week.

All of these arrangements concerning student labor are subject to further guidance from public health officials and civil authorities that may affect all of us.

As we are looking forward to our first week under new arrangements, I wish to thank each and every Berean, whether student, staff or faculty member, for your goodwill and generous spirit of cooperation in this extraordinary situation.  Laurie and I are exceedingly grateful for your support and understanding.  Together, Berea and our larger community will endure through these difficult times.

Dear Bereans,

Here are some updates concerning our ongoing COVID-19 response.

I have attached coping advice from the World Health Organization for dealing with the anxiety and stress of the COVID-19 epidemic.  Thanks to Jill Gurtatowski for passing this along.

Announcement from the CDL: In order to adjust for the loss of a large fraction of their student labor, the CDL will need to advance it’s closing time to 5:00 pm.  Staff with children in the CDL are permitted to leave work at 4:45 pm.  Please inform your supervisor if you need to take advantage of this accommodation.

The FAQ is now available here.

We have received some favorable attention in the national media for our approach to the COVID-19 challenge.  You can check on the piece in the online journal “Diverse Issues in Higher Education.”

Several interviews with other news organizations have been scheduled for today.

Announcements from Student Life

  • Check out time for students moving out of the residence halls is tomorrow Saturday, March 14th, at 12pm. Students will receive a notice from campus this afternoon with further instructions and room assignments.
  • No student requests to stay on campus have been rejected; for the 13 percent of the students who were offered spaces you will be assigned a room either in Deep Green or Danforth.
  • The College has offered financial assistance for travel expenses. Over 100 students have already been notified with requests.
  • Students who completed forms with Student Life regarding their support needs, Student Life has contacted you regarding your requests.  If you did submit a request via your survey form and have not heard back, please contact Student Life.  (Note, this is not for new requests.)
  • For students having college health insurance, please know that coverage continues worldwide. However, if you have Medicaid the health provider will take that first.
  • We have had many faculty and staff approach us to ask how you can assist us as we move our students out for the semester.  The best way to assist us (and more importantly, our students) is:
    • Help student move their items from their residence halls to cars as they begin moving out today and Saturday
    • Consider moving your car from the parking lots which are closest to the residence halls and/or areas where traffic is high and parking will be critical as our students move out.

If you wish to assist in moving items, please note the following:

    • Be prepared to lift at least 15-20 pounds
    • Be prepared to support our students and their families as they transition out of the residence halls
    • We will need assistance in all of our halls so there is plenty of space for assistance if you so choose

If you are interested in assisting in this way, please call our office at (859)-985-3290 during business hours (8am-5pm) on Friday and let us know. You may also choose to email us at stls@berea.eduWe will need assistance on both today, Friday 3/13 as well as Saturday 3/14. We will take your interest and availability when shared with us and determine where we can best use your assistance. We would ask that you not show up to residence halls without contacting us first. We will serve as a bridge for this contact with the Area Coordinator when you contact us in the office or via email.

Please know that you have all been amazing in your good and generous work and flexibility to make these transitions work.  You are true Bereans and have my deepest admiration,

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

Here are some COVID-19 updates for Thursday, March 12th.

We are fortunate to have “microbe expertise” on our faculty, in the person of Dr. Dawn Anderson.  Read her blurb offering some more information about the specifics of the novel coronavirus.

I need to dispel one rumor regarding our cancelled Commencement celebration, that being that the commencement speaker was to be Dolly Parton and that she had already written a song to be part of her address.  It is true that Ms. Parton was added to the approved list of potential honorary degree recipients from Berea College at the January, 2020 Board meeting, but it is NOT the case that she had been invited on such short notice to receive that degree this May.  I do hope that we will be able to prevail upon her to join us for a future Commencement, however.

Recognizing the unexpectedness of traveling home may catch students with little money, the College has decided to advance students $100 from the payroll to be processed next week.  This will go to the direct deposit account where your labor payments are sent; the money should be in your account on Friday (tomorrow!)  For those who receive a paper check, you may go to the Student Financial Aid Office on Friday after 8:30 a.m. to pick up an emergency loan voucher to get the $100 cash from Student Accounts.  Please understand that there will be a payroll deduction of $100 taken from your labor check next week, in addition to your current payroll deduction.  For example, if you were having 50% deducted from your check, next week you would have 50% plus $100 in payroll deductions OR if you had a flat amount of $25 deducted from your check, then next week there would be $25 plus $100 deducted.

Some students who live nearby have expressed interest in being allowed to take campus jobs. We very much appreciate this spirit of wanting to assist the community through a difficult time as we will have lost a large fraction of our student labor. The Administrative Committee has agreed that we can in fact employ students who live nearby, within commuting distance to work in labor positions.  The pay rate for students working in labor positions, whether living on campus or commuting from nearby will be at the rate planned for summer positions this year, $8.75/hour.  Students not working will receive the pay rate of their current campus position.

Announcements from the Labor Program

  • All student labor placements will be finalized by Monday morning (03/16). Students and supervisors will be notified by email, asap
  • Also, the Labor program has a large quantity of treats and snacks that had been purchased for Labor Day.  Students wanting some snacks for travel are welcome to stop by the office.

I do have one bit news for faculty and staff that might be a little bit unwelcome.  Operations will be continuing at the college which  means that meetings of committees, councils, and assemblies will continue.  Members not able or wishing to attend in person, including for example student members, can attend via Zoom, if possible.

Another bit of unfortunate news which we just received this morning; all KIIS programs have been cancelled for this summer.

The Child Development Laboratory plans to continue to be open as long as there are no cases of COVID-19 on campus or among the families served by the CDL.

Announcements from IS&S

(Students should also see the lengthy email sent this morning with more details.)

  • IS&S is completing all student laptop repairs immediately before students leave this weekend.  If a student’s laptop is not repaired before Friday, we will issue a loaner laptop for an extended time at no charge.
  • IS&S will ship bootable USB drives, including instructions to all seniors for assistance with laptop transfer of ownership.
  • IS&S is extending the password expiration from 120 days to 270 days.  (This can be done with undue cybersecurity risk because of our successful adoption of the Duo Multifactor Authorization protocol.

Another rumor that has been reported to me is concern about staff lay-offs.  We contemplate continuing with normal business operations and are not considering the possibility of lay-offs.

National and local media has taken an interest in our situation and we have had reporters on campus.  Some students report what they take as harassment.  Please know that no one needs to speak with a reporter if they prefer not to, and in that case, it is a good idea to refer them to Director of Media Relations Tim Jordan.  Please let Mr. Jordan know at jordant@berea.edu if you have been excessively bothered by a reporter and where the interaction took place.

My thanks for all everyone is doing to work through this challenging moment.

Lyle Roelofs, President

Dear Bereans,

I am planning on sending a daily update on the COVID-19 situation and decisions we are making as we respond to the changing situation.  I’ll be aiming for the early afternoon each day until there’s nothing more to add.

First, we are preparing a FAQ website.  Look for a link on the College home page, hopefully by the end of the day.  Once it is live, students may wish to inform their parents about the site, which will have information some families have been requesting, too.  I and all the other members of the administrative committee are doing our best to respond to all the questions we are receiving, but there are some inevitable delays.

One thing I should have emphasized in the first message yesterday is that our decision to close is NOT because we know about an active case of COVID-19 on campus.  Some people jumped to that erroneous conclusion.  Rather the closure is preemptive and precautionary, the decision being driven by the realization and if and when we do have a case, we will not be able to project the health and wellbeing of others on campus, students and employees, because of the difficulty of managing quarantine requirements.

I do want to reiterate and explain further a couple of points from yesterday’s message.

  • Students for whom it would be a hardship in any way to leave campus, may apply to stay.  (See the announcement below from Student Life.)
  • Students will continue to receive their student labor pay, whether or not they are able to work.
  • Faculty are working to ensure that each course can be satisfactorily completed, employing other means of instruction than in-class meetings.  This means that students in good standing who did expect to complete requirements for graduation in May 2020, should still be able to do so.  It also means that all students should have the opportunity to stay on schedule with their course work.

One additional fact, not mentioned in yesterday’s message, is that students who do complete graduation requirements will receive their Berea College diplomas by mail shortly after graduation would have occurred.

Please also know that it is very much our intention to still find a way to celebrate 2020 graduates in a public ceremony and celebration.  We will need to know more about the progress of COVID-19 illnesses in our region and country before we know when that can be safely done, but we may be able to share a tentative plan in the new future.

We have not yet been able to make decisions about summer school.  Again, we will need to monitor developments to determine whether we can safely offer summer courses.

Announcements from Student Life

  • (For students who wish to be allowed to stay on campus)  As was announced in residence hall meetings last evening by Area Coordinators students who wish to be considered for approval to stay on campus need to complete the form for that purpose.  Students who missed the meetings can still get the form from their Area Coordinator.
  • Also, Counseling Services is continuing with walk in hours from 9am-5pm (closed 12-1pm).

Announcement from Dining Service

Below are the hours for the week:

Dining Hall

  • Wed: Closing at 9 pm
  • Thurs: Closing at 9 pm
  • Fri: Closing at 7:30p

Saturday & Sunday

  • Breakfast 7:30 – 10:00 am
  • Brunch 11:00 am – 1:30 pm
  • Dinner 4:30 – 7:30 pm

(For those remaining on campus, reduced hours for Dining Hall will be shared later.)

Tres Hab

  • Wed: Normal hours
  • Thurs: Closing at 2 pm
  • Fri: Closed

Pinnacle Café

  • Wed: Normal hours
  • Thur: Normal hours
  • Fri:  Closing at 2 pm

On behalf of the Administrative Committee I want to thank everyone who is working creatively and diligently to make the many adjustments that are necessary to successfully navigate this set of challenges.

Warm regards,
Lyle Roelofs, President

Last updated Mar. 20, 2020 at 2:20 p.m.

Dear Bereans,

This morning, the Administrative Committee reached a decision in response to the COVID-19 challenges that will have significant implications for each and every member of the community.

Concluding, after careful analysis, that it will not be possible to adequately assure student and employee safety in the circumstance of a case of COVID-19 occurring on campus, we have decided that the College will cease in-person instructional activities as of the end of the day on this Friday, March 13.

Faculty are requested to give immediate consideration to how their courses can be brought to closure in that time, and we apologize for the very short notice.  Because most students will have left campus and not all will have internet access, instruction should not continue, although assignments for students to complete and submit can be part of the plan and electronic communications may continue.  The due date for final grades will not change.

Students are requested to give immediate consideration to planning to return home with this Saturday, the 14th, being move-out day.  Residence hall rooms will need to fully vacated.  For students for whom returning home would be a hardship, continuing accommodations on campus can be provided, upon application to Student Life.  Students remaining on campus will be expected to continue to fulfill Labor responsibilities and may be redeployed to other duties.  Students who will need assistance with travel costs may also apply to Student Life for assistance.  All students will continue to be paid for their campus work positions through the end of the semester, even if they are off campus and not able to actually work.

College operations will not cease as of this date, and staff should plan to continue to fulfill their job responsibilities until further notice from their vice president.

This announcement will result in many questions, and I request that you direct your questions to the vice president responsible for that area.  You may also anticipate that there will be a number of more detailed messages directed to targeted groups of recipients.  A team of responsible employees will join the Administrative Committee to work through all those detailed matters as expeditiously as possible.

There are a few immediate consequences of this decision that can already be announced:

  • Regrettably, our Commencement celebration will also be cancelled, or at least postponed to a date when such a gathering can be conducted safely.
  • Summer academic travel through the BIST program will be cancelled.  (Other summer academic travel managed through other institutions may also be cancelled, but we are not making that decision at this time.)
  • Effective immediately, we will also curtail student, faculty and staff travel supported by the College through at least the end of the semester.
  • Meetings of the GFA and the CFA planned for this Thursday afternoon will be held as scheduled, but faculty wishing to attend remotely via Zoom may do so.
  • Athletics contests scheduled through Thursday of this week may be completed.  I will be informing the schools of the USA South conference that we will be unable to compete in the remainder of our scheduled games.

We have a lot to accomplish in order for this very abrupt change in operations to be successfully undertaken.  I urge everyone to do their utmost to assist and to be flexible and creative in accommodating the many consequent and inevitable difficulties.

Lyle Roelofs, President
(On behalf of the Administrative Committee)

Dear Bereans,

Some faculty and students have expressed concern and have suggested curtailing some campus activities including classes and labor.  Unfortunately, given the close proximity in which we work, learn and live, curtailing just classes and labor will not offer meaningful protection from the potential spread of infection in our community.

If we become aware of any member of the College community having come in contact with someone having a confirmed case of Coronavirus illness, a two-week quarantine is necessary.

  • For faculty and staff, that would be a self-quarantine at home for that duration.  An employee required to undertake self-quarantine would not be required to use sick time, and, to the extent possible, would be expected to undertake whatever responsibilities might be conducted through email, phone communication, etc.
  • For students, quarantine space has been identified, labor would be excused, food will be delivered, and any course participation would need to be via on-line methods.
  • COVID-19 testing, as mandated by state and local health officials, will follow any period of quarantine.  Individual(s) must be cleared before returning to campus and normal activities.

A considerably more serious situation obtains if we become aware of an actual COVID-19 diagnosis of any member of the on-campus community.  At that point local government and health officials will step in and do contact tracing to identify others who may have been exposed.  The number of contacts any one of us has with others will make that complicated, and the number identified would likely be appreciable.  In that event, all options will be considered but there may be no alternative but to close the campus under guidance from state and local health officials.  In that event:

  • Students able to go home will be expected to do so; others will be accommodated on campus with known contacts of the infected person(s) quarantined in so far as we are able.
  • Non-essential employees will not report to work, except as directed by their supervisor. These employees would be expected to work remotely to the extent this is possible.
  • Such a development will cause many complications, and I have charged a task force chaired by Provost Strong-Leek to work on details of that planning.

I have been in contact with the presidents of some other Kentucky colleges and universities—similar planning is underway at those other schools.  Our planning will continue to be informed by a full range of governmental, medical and other information resources, including our own community.

We can, of course, hope that all of this planning will turn out to be unnecessary, but it seems that we and most other residential colleges and universities in the country face the need to prepare for a major disruption. The cooperation and understanding of every member of the campus community is essential to safeguarding the health and well-being of all Bereans.

With all my concern for this troubling situation,

Lyle Roelofs, President