Editor’s note: During the coronavirus pandemic, I feel the pain of our students, whose education and graduation ceremonies are being interrupted or canceled.
I’ve had this recurring image of scores of them, rushing to gather up their belongings in their dorms, then heading home in uncertain times, then turning to Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens to communicate. I’m sure it must feel like taking a step backwards.
This is a heartfelt letter from the president of Northwestern University. It is well written and was shared with the alumni this morning.
March 20 Message to Students
Dear Northwestern Students,
I am truly sorry that this is not the Spring Break any of us expected. Many of you have left our campuses, while others remain in Evanston, Chicago and Doha, as we seek to play our own best role in a global saga—the battle to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
As the parents of a college sophomore and a graduate student, my wife and I appreciate the mix of anxieties and fears that you and your families are feeling.
An important part of any educational experience is celebrating the traditions that bind students together, creating vivid memories for the rest of your lives. This year, you’ve already had to forego a number of treasured traditions such as Dance Marathon, Spring Break activities and study abroad.
I wish I knew when things will return to normal. The pandemic has been likened to a war, and no one can credibly say when it will end.
Yet along the way, I’ve heard stories of kindness and compassion among our students that bring tears to my eyes. Some of you are giving your classmates a place to stay during this crisis alongside your own families. Some of you have organized efforts to assist community members with emergency childcare, or with buying or picking up groceries. And others are reaching out to help in countless other ways.
It confirms my conviction that not only will we get through this, we will be a stronger and more caring Northwestern community as a result.
It’s been said that great people, and great generations, are forged in circumstances that test and refine their best qualities. Today’s challenges may well represent a grand crucible for this generation of Northwestern students—one that prepares you to make an even more profound impact on our world.
I’m an optimist, but I am also a realist. In the weeks ahead, I hope to give good news to those of you waiting to hear whether you will return for in-person classes. And if you are scheduled to graduate this year at our ceremonies in Evanston, I still plan to welcome you and your families on June 19. We will obviously respect the guidance of health experts and officials so that the public well-being is in no way compromised. Whatever happens, I pledge that we will do our very best to honor you and your accomplishments in the most meaningful way possible.
My most fervent prayer is to see you all again soon.
President and Professor