December 2020: My gratitude to you

Dear DU Community,

I want to express my deep gratitude to you. In a profoundly challenging year, your work, care and commitment to our community has been inspiring, heartwarming and uplifting.

Most importantly, I believe we accomplished what we set out to do: give our students the best possible educational experience during a time defined by uncertainty and anxiety. It was not easy, but the strength of this incredible community made it possible.

Our faculty deployed new technology and pedagogical techniques to teach in different modalities while still maintaining their scholarly and creative work. Our staff guided our challenging budget year, collected and analyzed data, supported our students in the residence halls, cleaned and disinfected all our working spaces and so much more. And our students adapted to a new learning environment and difficult restrictions on how they gather and socialize.

I want to give a special shout-out to our governance groups, which nimbly pivoted to help keep DU up and running during the pandemic. Faculty Senate, Staff Advisory Council, and our undergraduate and graduate student governments all met frequently, distributed surveys and engaged in meaningful debate—all of this on top of their regular work and studies. Kudos to you all. What we have learned from the past few months will guide the plans for our return to campus and in-person learning for the winter term. This work is already underway.

And, while we are still gathering complete data from the past few months, the initial numbers, I believe, tell a compelling story:

  • Since July 31, DU administered nearly 30,000 tests for novel coronavirus.
  • 75 percent of our community opted into Everbridge, our digital contact tracing app.
  • Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence held over 400 events for students to socialize safely.
  • Our dining services delivered over 3,000 meals to students in isolation and quarantine.
  • We distributed over 6,000 DU crimson masks.

I would also like to recognize that what you have accomplished was not met without hardship or sacrifice. For some, this year has meant more work with less compensation. For many, balancing work, family, and caring for others has stretched you thin. To you, our students, I want to acknowledge that you sacrificed parts of the college experience you had been looking forward to for many years. I hope, even with the changes required to keep our community safe, you found connection and friendship on campus. For all these reasons and more, as we enter this time in between the fall and winter terms, I urge all of us to take time to unplug, recharge and recover.

This fall will go down in the history books, but what I hope we remember most of all is how this community came together to contribute and keep one another safe.

Thank you, once again. May the coming weeks be filled with hope, joy, and rejuvenation. (And the launch of a vaccine distribution wouldn’t hurt either.)

Jeremy Haefner