The following message was sent to all students, faculty and staff by email on Jan. 24, 2022.
Members of the SUNY New Paltz Community:
I write to welcome you to the launch of spring semester!
I do so with mixed emotion, knowing that this is the last time as president I will extend such start-of-the-semester wishes. As I reflect on my 45 years as a professor and administrator and see the end of my career in sight, I am grateful for:
the dedication of students to learn about themselves and the world around them and to prepare for life, livelihood, and citizenship;
the commitment of faculty and staff to teaching, learning, and supporting students and creating new knowledge;
the power of education to change lives; and
the dependence of our democratic way of life on an educated citizenry.
I look forward to our work together in the semester ahead to advance those larger goals.
We have sustained our educational enterprise through almost two years of a pandemic, albeit in ways we are not used to and with losses, conflicts, and costs along the way.
I encourage us all to sustain the commitments to individual and community health and safety that have served our campus so well – in many respects making our campus a safer place to be than in the broader community. These include:
getting boosted as soon as eligible;
adhering to indoor mask mandates;
exercising care in selecting and wearing well-fitting, multi-layered masks (such as N95, KN95 and KN94 masks);
testing as required or warranted;
observing quarantine and isolation protocols;
avoiding or minimizing time in situations where likelihood of transmission is higher, and
considering the mental health and the pandemic fatigue and/or anxiety of our students, your peers and your colleagues when interacting with others. Please do your part to support their well-being. Be kind and generous.
Do these things to protect yourself and others around you who may be more vulnerable (think “We, Not Me”), and to help us sustain the educational opportunities that we so value.
We are making every effort to communicate requirements and guidance as succinctly as possible, and in as many different forms and media as feasible, including “if-then” formats and ongoing updates in our Daily Digest. But much of this cannot be reduced further without losing key content, so I ask your patience (and some investment of time and effort!) in learning about policies and best practices.
Let’s not lose sight of current indicators that omicron, while highly transmissible, presents a lower level of severity than we faced earlier in the pandemic – indeed, as recently as last semester. Many experts, while cautious, see signs that we may be turning the corner in our management of COVID-19, and in threats to individual and public health – and the opportunity to regain more elements of pre-pandemic living, perhaps even before summer. These are encouraging signs that as the semester progresses, we may be able to pursue our educational goals with a different level of attention to health and safety considerations.
We will still count and report case numbers on our Dashboard, but many experts are suggesting that with omicron the predominant variant case counts do not mean the same thing as earlier in the pandemic, before vaccines and successful treatments. We will make every effort in our Daily Digest to provide current context for reported cases and trends. We will continue to watch these trends and shifts in SUNY, New York State, and CDC guidance closely and adjust our practices and reporting as warranted as the semester progresses.
I thank everyone in advance for your support and consideration as we continue to manage these dynamics.
On this first day of class, I remind us that today our campus observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Jan. 17, the federal holiday, I quietly honored Dr. King’s contributions and legacy during that day’s winter snowstorm by reading his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” This letter is a clear reminder of the breadth and depth of his vision, the civil rights progress we have – and have not – made in the subsequent six decades, and the growing threats to achieving racial equality that have been laid so bare in our divided nation. I call upon all to remain engaged in our anti-racist work as a campus community in this new calendar year. We must intentionally work on our own individual understanding and participation in this work. Stay tuned for further updates on how the campus continues to take steps in this journey. In the meantime, I encourage you all to take a moment to read and reflect on MLK Jr.’s powerful and enduring message. Above all, remember that his messages are filled with the hope that people need positive connection and that we all have the capacity to learn and grow.
Best wishes for a successful, rewarding, and safe spring semester.
Donald P. Christian