What’s next?

While the Coronavirus pandemic rages on—claiming more victims and taking more lives—we are a nation that pushes forward, even in the face of this monumental crisis.

Indeed, Illinois remains under Governor Pritzker’s “Stay at Home” directive and we are continuously urged to practice social distancing and engage in behaviors aimed at protecting our physical health and mental well-being, while slowing the advance of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible.

Health officials worldwide believe the worst is yet to come.  It is far from over.

But we move on, together.  Today, Illinois State has wrapped up the first week of its “new normal” under alternative instructional methods.  Teachers and students are back to school in virtual classrooms, and for many of us, Zoom now refers to a remote conferencing service instead of the speed of travel.

The week did not pass without a few glitches, both technological and pedagogical, but there were fewer than anticipated.  Many teachers, staff members, and students faced times of challenge and frustration, but the overall experience seemed to be positive though representing a new way of teaching and learning for many.  With each passing day, I am ever more grateful for your continued patience, flexibility, and positive attitudes.

A reporter earlier asked me if Spring 2020 will be known as the lost semester.  I immediately responded with an emphatic “no.”  We continue to teach and learn.  We continue to serve students now living at their permanent residences or off-campus apartments, as well as many students whose best option is University housing.  We continue to provide support services to faculty and staff members, and observe our shared governance traditions, as we did on Wednesday with a virtual question-and-answer session with the Academic Senate.

We are maintaining services through the work of essential employees
on-campus and the work of other employees from their homes.

As our collective efforts over the past few weeks answered many questions, many new queries are now taking their place.  Topics such as spring semester grading, summer school and fall semester classes, housing, family financial compensation, scheduling, state budgets, and many others are currently the subject of daily University conversations.

Just as they have since the beginning of this pandemic, as answers become available, we will communicate with you through e-mails and our Coronavirus webpage.  You may also continue to address your specific questions at coronavirus@ilstu.edu.  Since that e-mail was created three weeks ago, Illinois State staff members have responded to more than 1,200 questions.

As I thank everyone for practicing our core values during this crisis, I also want to particularly thank the many staff members who have worked literally thousands of hours to manage Illinois State’s
COVID-19 response.

Our emergency team has been meeting daily—sometimes more than once a day—for several straight weeks, including weekends. That 21-member team includes me and has included all members of the Cabinet.

We also formed 18 separate working groups, involving some 40 people, who covered every aspect of University operation—and they also met daily.

In addition, hundreds of people have offered extra time to make sure that our students and their families receive the individualized attention they deserve, and that the most critical functions of the University are maintained.

As we continue to teach and learn throughout the remainder of the Spring semester, I urge you to protect your health and watch over those who are the most vulnerable.  We will also be adding to our webpage and FAQ with additional resources and suggestions to maintain mental well-being, morale, and the sense of being part of a cohesive Illinois State community, though we are physically far apart.

I also want to alert you to Illinois State’s COVID-19 Redbird Response Fund, created to provide assistance to students who are facing emergency financial hardships due to the Coronavirus pandemic.   Students can find out more about the fund by contacting the University’s Financial Aid Office.  If you would like to make a gift to this fund, please visit https://giving.illinoisstate.edu/coronavirus/.  I invite you to join Marlene and me in supporting students in this very special and important way. Your generosity will provide immediate assistance to help students stay on track with their Illinois State experience.

If all of us are able to persevere with a spirit of collaboration and respect, I promise we will emerge from this extraordinary crisis even stronger than we are today.

Thank you and GO YOU REDBIRDS!