Optimism and realism as we start the spring semester
February 1, 2021
Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,
We want to welcome you back to Brandeis, even as a winter storm kicks off our spring semester. As we consider the start of a new academic term, we are simultaneously optimistic about the future and realistic about the present.
There is no doubt that the fall semester was a successful one on many levels. We worked together to adhere to a set of science-based health policies that maintained the safety of our community amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty and students alike acclimated to new technology and found ways to foster learning and the exchange of ideas that are so vital to a Brandeis education. Equally important, we came together as a campus community around many of the most important topics of 2020 – including voter engagement and the critical need to pursue and attain equity on our campus. It was not the semester that any of us would have hoped for in January 2020, but we adapted and have succeeded.
From a health perspective, however, this semester begins on a different note. Unlike our return to class in late August, when the rate of positive COVID-19 cases was relatively low, today we are working to reverse a severe nationwide spike that occurred from late December through early January. The seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts is currently approximately 3,500 – a tenfold increase from August. As a result, even if we all behave exactly as we did in the fall, our risk for a COVID-19 outbreak is greater than before. We are also not yet knowledgeable about the impact of the several variants of the virus, but what we do know is that most are more contagious than the original. We know you join us in recognizing how important it is to stay vigilant in order to maintain the options we have for in-person learning and social engagement. I thank you in advance for the extra care we know you will take this semester.
Even in this challenging moment, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the past year, scientists have done what many thought impossible and developed highly effective vaccines that can help us tackle COVID-19. Though it is too soon to say when the U.S. will achieve sufficient vaccination to tame the virus, that day is in our view. Last week, we shared information about the vaccination rollout in Massachusetts and where we stand at Brandeis.
As cautious as we may need to be on the health and safety front, we are eager to see the Brandeis community come together this semester (virtually and in person) to foster skills, advance learning, and develop relationships that will last a lifetime.
With best wishes for a successful semester,
Provost and Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration
Raymond Lu-Ming Ou
Vice President of Student Affairs