Reflecting together on the past year of COVID-19

March 11, 2021

Dear Brandeis Community,

One year ago today, Brandeis made an announcement that would have seemed stunning even a few short weeks before: We were shifting to all-remote courses, and most of our students would return home before the end of the month because of the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was, as we now know, only the beginning of a year in which so much we could not have previously imagined would come to pass.

Almost immediately, the word “unprecedented” became cliché. Around the world and in the U.S., unfathomable losses — of health, of lives, of jobs, of security, of in-person connections — mounted at a heartbreaking pace. Front-line workers and medical personnel risked their own lives, day after day, for others. Parents and caregivers struggled to keep their jobs while caring for their families, with little to no external support. The burdens of illness, job loss, and death were unevenly spread, with Indigenous, immigrant, and communities of color experiencing an outsized share of the loss. For many of us, familiar ways of comforting and seeking comfort — and celebrating milestones and triumphs — were closed off when we needed them most. Though we have not experienced the past year identically, we have all had times when we felt depleted, confused, bereft, and afraid.

Brandeis was not spared the human impact of this worldwide tragedy. But as we acknowledge these losses, we must shine a light on the creativity, ingenuity, dedication, solidarity, and grit our community displayed in the face of the worst pandemic in more than a century. Our students quickly adjusted to learning in new and often more challenging ways. Families supported students in ways they never anticipated at this time in their lives. Students supported one another — those who stayed in close touch from afar, and those who stayed on campus to help other students. Faculty retooled their courses in record time, learned from the spring semester, and worked all summer to improve their remote teaching for the fall semester. Faculty and staff went out of their way to care for individual students when they struggled. Staff reimagined and redesigned our systems, policies, and activities to enhance student experiences both on campus and off, and to make a safe return to campus possible. Families and alumni reached out to help students, and to aid our newest alumni in finding jobs in the worst job market imaginable for new graduates. Together, all these groups gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to respond to students’ emergency financial needs. And, in the midst of this, members of our community engaged with renewed vigor in the struggle for racial justice.

None of this was easy. None of this happened without personal sacrifices that we know will never be completely accounted for or repaid. But we should all take a moment to reflect and recognize our own and one another’s accomplishments over the past year. As a leadership group, we extend our gratitude for all your efforts and feel great pride as a result of all we have accomplished together.

You have done what was previously thought to be a monumental task. As we leave behind the first year of this pandemic, we look forward with hope that vaccines and improved treatments will bring us much closer to our pre-pandemic routines. May we grow from the struggles endured, be inspired by what we have accomplished, and continue to be strengthened by our commitment to one another.

Sincerely,

Ron Liebowitz, President
Carol Fierke, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Stew Uretsky, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration
Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Eric Chasalow, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Kathryn Graddy, Dean, Brandeis International Business School
Dorothy L. Hodgson, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
Dan Kim, Senior Vice President for Communications, Marketing, and External Relations
Zamira Korff, Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement
Jim La Creta, Chief Information Officer
Steven S. Locke, General Counsel
Raymond Lu-Ming Ou, Vice President of Student Affairs
William R. O’Reilly Jr., Chief of Staff and Senior Adviser to the President
Lynne Rosansky, Interim Vice President, Rabb School for Continuing Studies
Matthew Sheehy, University Librarian
Samuel Solomon, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer
Lois Stanley, Vice President for Campus Operations
Robin Switzer, Vice President of Human Resources
Nicholas Warren, Chief Investment Officer
David Weil, Dean, Heller School for Social Policy and Management