Many, many university employees have asked me a question over the past weeks and months. It was asked several times during the July town hall meeting and by email before and after the meeting.
The question is: Why do faculty and staff have to return to campus during a global pandemic?
I understand where this question comes from. I have two underlying health conditions that make my chances of surviving COVID-19 much lower than the average person’s. I work very hard to mitigate my risk of contracting the virus, and I felt safer working from home than I feel working from campus.
Fulfilling our mission
There are many reasons we must return to campus. There are financial and other risks associated with moving even more of our operations online. Many jobs at the university, including mine, simply cannot be completed entirely from home, and the university can no longer afford to pay people not to work as we battle through a significant revenue decline in the current fiscal year.
Here’s the deal, the mission of our university — to educate students to be citizen scholars — requires us to be here.
Our current and prospective students have made it clear they want to be on campus in the fall. Prospective students at other universities — particularly those in other parts of the country — may differ.
But at our university, if we do not provide a robust, on-campus learning environment, many of our students will not enroll. This is particularly true for under-resourced students. If they do not begin in the fall, many will never seek a college degree, and their lives would be forever changed for the worse.
This would severely undermine the university’s educational mission.
It would also impact the university financially, resulting in extensive personnel cuts.
We cannot educate students to be citizen scholars if they do not enroll. The world we live in will be less educated. Our would-be students will suffer without the education and diverse experiences our university provides.
Additionally, our community depends on us to educate students, populate the workforce, and credential professionals. We cannot take a year (or more) off from our usual pace of enrolling 20,000+ students and awarding 5,000+ degrees and certificates. The impact would be devastating.
I take the mission of our university seriously. I also take the pandemic seriously. We will continue to implement masking, testing, travel, and social distancing precautions to mitigate spread of the virus and protect our faculty, staff, and students.
At some point in the future, if COVID-19 forces us to move our operations online as we did last spring, we will do so without hesitation and will rely on the contingency plans faculty, staff and administrators created throughout the summer. Until then, we will press on toward a campus reopening in the fall.
You can find more information about our plans to reopen in the fall in our Guide to Returning to Campus.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State!