The events during the COVID-19 crisis have been a whirlwind for many in the Trinity community. I’d like to take this opportunity to give you a glimpse of what Trinity’s timeline looked like and the steps we took to ensure the health and safety of our campus community.
When Trinity’s Crisis Management Team (CMT) began following the global coronavirus situation, our focus was on our students abroad. In mid February, we were communicating with those students and their faculty about their potential return to the U.S. In two short weeks, it quickly became apparent to those on the CMT that this crisis knew no borders, and the steps we were taking to care for our students abroad would soon need to be made at One Trinity Place as well.
By March 11, Trinity had taken clear and quick action to promote the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students. Vacating the residence halls (with some exceptions) and shifting to remote synchronous learning allowed Trinity to do its part to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 transmission and allowed us to continue pursuing our mission—preparing students for lives of meaning and purpose.
On March 18 and 19, the City of San Antonio and State of Texas issued new orders related to the public health emergency and showed the timeliness and prudence of our decision. The continued closures of K-12 schools, restaurants, bars, and many public spaces all have the goal of promoting “physical distancing.” (One of our Trinity faculty members, Dr. Erin Sumner, reminds us that we really ought to be talking about “physical distancing;” we need the positive support of our “social connections” to get through this experience.) On campus, personnel were asked in late March to work remotely (everywhere possible), a key method for continuing the social distancing process. Most faculty and staff are Zooming in from their home offices while also caring for children, parents, partners, and pets. A kind word to your favorite faculty or staff members can go a long way!
On March 23, Trinity University held its first-ever remote synchronous classes in its 151-year history. We are now in week five, and believe it or not, final exams are a little more than two weeks away. Of course, the switch wasn’t easy, and it still poses a number of pedagogical and technological challenges. But thanks to abundant resourcefulness and resilience, Trinity faculty have proven themselves again to be creative, student-centered, and dedicated instructors.
My greatest concern is for our current students and our prospective students. First, there are the high school seniors and Trinity’s graduating seniors who have missed out on the final spring semester traditions. We have made plans for a virtual conferral of degrees and rescheduled Spring 2020 commencement for August 8; we seek to keep the connections strong as this generation moves out into the world. Second, we are all in mourning for the wonderful spring semester events that have not occurred: art exhibits, musical performances, plays, debates, special lectures, and athletic seasons. In fact, recent communications from Dr. Richard Reams, Counseling, and Chaplain Alex Serna-Wallender have helped us understand the collective mourning we are all experiencing. Third, our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and some students are experiencing this pandemic with greater stress than others. We were fortunate to be able to make 240 awards from the Raymond Judd Student Emergency Fund with almost $100,000 distributed to date. We continue to seek ways to meet the needs of our students, to ensure our mission of fueling their search for a life of meaning and purpose. Internal emergency task forces, individual outreach, and empathy guide us as we seek to ensure the success of each student. Your support has made a world of difference, and I thank you.
Without question, today’s educational experience is much different than last semester’s, but our faculty have delivered remote educational experiences that retain the core characteristics of a 21st-century residential liberal arts university. I have had a lot of people ask me if this journey into remote synchronous learning will change the way we deliver education in the future. Undoubtedly, this pandemic will change the face of higher education—it may even change some parts of our University. But Trinity will remain solid and steadfast in providing an environment of unwavering support. There is no better way to cultivate this environment than in the in-person interactions between faculty, students, mentors, and staff.
For more than 150 years, we have transformed challenges into opportunity, and we are not backing down from the challenges in front of us now. We survived three moves, two world wars, the Great Depression, and numerous other financial, economic, and social crises. And in the face of this crisis, we are proud to have acted promptly and prioritized the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We are proud to be a part of a city that supports its citizens’ well being. And we are proud to be on this journey alongside dedicated and loyal Tigers who are also empathetically embracing the unknown.
I wish the best for you, your families, and your loved ones, and hope that you are safe, healthy, and well. I think about graduates from our Health Care Administration program, and their families; these individuals are on the frontline, combating side by side with clinicians to address our public health emergency. Many alumni work in a variety of health care roles, and we each play a unique role in this crisis. In our everyday lives we all are experiencing the distress caused by the pandemic and the concerns caused by the economic downturn. The phrases to describe our current situation seem like euphemisms. I am grateful everyday for the presence of human kindness and the generosity I see in individuals and groups as we work together toward a better future. I miss the life and energy on campus, and I am counting down the days until we are back together.
This past Friday, we had our first virtual Faculty Assembly with record-breaking attendance via Zoom. I ended my comments by sharing a remark that a friend made to me. He said that human beings tend to respond to challenges and adversity in one of three ways. First, with resignation: We accept the way things are and refuse to believe we have the power to change them. Second, with anger: We become angry at the way things are and stew about it. Third, with possibility: We embrace the notion of possibility and ask what we can do to change things. As you think about Trinity University, know that we are a community of possibility as we look to the future. It’s in our institutional DNA. As you think about these days and their challenges, be open to the Trinity spirit of possibility as we look ahead. Together, whether in person or in spirit, we are an unstoppable force in motion.
As always, if you have any questions you’d like to ask or thoughts you’d like to share, do not hesitate to reach out. I truly enjoy hearing from the Trinity community. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay strong.
Danny J. Anderson
President, Trinity University
As Trinity's chief storyteller, I love to share news about the University. But I also love hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me at TUPresident@trinity.edu. Also, follow me on Twitter @TU_President19 or follow conversations on my website at president.trinity.edu.