As I sit down to write this column on the first day of spring, it dawns on me that I have no idea what higher education and even our world will look like when you read it at the beginning of May. Recent weeks have brought significant change to most institutions in the world. The one thing I am confident in, though, is what my friend and colleague Pam Schreiber said during an ACUHO-I-hosted coronavirus webinar: “This will bring out the best in us as a profession.”
Throughout the almost 75 years of ACUHO-I history, our member campuses have dealt with a variety of challenges. The coronavirus pandemic, though, may be the first to have such a widespread impact. Fortunately, our campuses were prepared for this. We put our response plans into effect, worked through them, and made difficult decisions. We offered support to students and guidance to campus administrators. We also offered advice and resources to our colleagues. It was so incredibly heartening to see people, in the midst of 14-hour work days, take time out to participate in webinars and virtual roundtables, respond to questions in the ACUHO-I online community, answer emails, and check in with their colleagues on campus and around the world – all in service of the greater good.
THE ONE THING I AM CONFIDENT IN IS WHAT MY FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE PAM SCHREIBER SAID: “THIS WILL BRING OUT THE BEST IN US AS A PROFESSION.”
You may have heard the Fred Rogers quotation: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Rest assured that now people are looking to us. Students, parents, colleagues, administrators, and government officials are looking to us because, time and time again, we have shown that we are the helpers. Plus, when the immediate effects of this have passed, we know that our world will not snap back to the way it was. I believe that after weeks of social isolation and being away from their new friends, they will find a newfound appreciation for community, connection, diversity, and engagement. Social distancing, though absolutely necessary, is anathema to the spirit of campus housing. When the students return, we will once again be valuable resources to bring individuals and communities together.
I have been in housing for more than 35 years, and I’ve been through tornadoes, floods, student deaths, 9/11, and numerous other crisis situations. Perhaps my memory isn’t as good as it used to be, but I don’t recall an event as personally impactful as this pandemic. As I conclude this column, I leave you all with my hopes that you and your loved ones are safe. Also, please know that in the midst of all this turmoil, I’ve never been more proud to be a housing professional, an ACUHO-I member, and someone who strives to make campus home. Thank you for all that you have done and will do moving forward.