One year ago today, the president of Robert Morris University made the right call. But what a hard one it must have been.
It was on this date he announced the university would close for two days so that faculty had the opportunity to move our classes to remote delivery.
At the time, there was cautious optimism — or perhaps it was naivete — here and around the country that the coronavirus pandemic would die out in a few weeks. Maybe, just maybe, we’d all be back together before the semester ended.
Maybe never had a chance.
Who knew what would happen over the next 12 months.
Within days RMU residential students began heading home, as it became clear the remainder of the spring semester had to be held remotely. Within weeks graduation ceremonies were moved online. It soon became clear that the summer would see almost no one on campus. There was a stretch of more than five months that I worked only from home. I was not alone.
Soon it was time for the fall semester. Some classes were online, fewer were on campus, and we were introduced to a new term: virtual rotation, which involved a sizable percentage of classes. Fears of an outbreak on campus never materialized as the remaining weeks of summer handed off the baton to fall, but no one said, “I told you so.”
Faculty and students left campus at Thanksgiving, knowing the final weeks of the fall term would be online. And hanging over our heads was the uncertainty of what the spring term would bring.
We returned for the spring semester fearing the winter months would lead to a spike in coronavirus cases, and when combined with flu season would lead to major problems. Thankfully, flu season was kind and the (albeit slow) rollout of the vaccines eventually made a dent in the spread of coronavirus.
With roughly two months left in the spring term, optimism — granted, in small doses — is sprouting. The semester ought to end with millions of Americans vaccinated. Scaled back but somewhat normal commencement ceremonies are right now possible. Who knows, there might even be people on campus this summer!
What have we, as Americans, learned over the past 12 months? I think more than anything else our true selves have been exposed. Some of us are guided by selflessness, and others are interested only in themselves. We acted either by placing society ahead of ourselves, or vice versa.
Those of us who were selfless may hold our heads high.
If I should experience something like the last 12 months again, may I know even more selfless people than I do now.