March 22, 2020
Tulane President Mike Fitts updates the Tulane community prior to the first week of online classes. For more information and resources pertaining to COVID-19, visit emergency.tulane.edu.
As I record this message, I’m here on campus in Gibson hall, and it’s completely empty. It’s strange. The proverbial “View from Gibson” is just grass, buildings, and the new bead tree – which is still covered in beads, but it’s not being replenished! I might have to go out there myself to throw a bead later today. But while it’s strange to be in an empty building on an empty campus, I’m comforted knowing that we can still connect virtually.
I want to start with a special “shout out” to the many members of the Tulane family working at the front lines of this pandemic...the nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers; the first responders; the researchers, the people who provide the critical services to keep our university and cities running. You are my personal heroes, and I thank you.
I want to commend our students who, under difficult and abrupt circumstances, left campus and moved home last week. Although you had very little notice, all of you handled the move seamlessly and with incredible grace. I know the past week has been challenging as you adjust to your new surroundings and prepare to begin online learning this week. Please know that everyone at Tulane is still here to help you succeed – virtually, if not in person. Just about every university resource that you would have utilized under normal circumstances is still available to you online. Our faculty and staff stand ready to support you.
Speaking of faculty and staff, I want to thank all of you for working so tirelessly these last two weeks to move our educational mission online. You have not let your foot off the gas pedal even once, and you inspire me. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again – we have the best faculty and staff in the world.
To our alumni, parents, and friends – I know that many of you own or work for businesses that are gravely affected. This is an incredibly challenging time, and if there’s a way that Tulane can support you, please know we are here for you. Every single person in the Tulane family has stepped up to the plate this week. Some have responded by going to work to ensure our health and safety. And others are doing their part by staying in isolation. In fact, it is the most powerful, united action we could possibly take as a community. We are a community working together to protect the most vulnerable among us.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge you – every single one of you – for your courage and resilience, in responding to this crisis. Your united front has been absolutely critical to our institution as a whole. Everything we are facing right now is unprecedented. The Tulane community is and always has been a relational culture. It’s one of our superpowers. We thrive on interpersonal connection and by learning from one another in close proximity. Now we are called to find new ways to translate that culture into the virtual sphere, without in-person contact.
I will be the first to admit that I’m still getting used to having every meeting by Zoom. I still haven’t figured out where to look to make eye contact over the computer! My apologies. And I may, or may not, have had a meeting earlier this week where the person only saw my elbow. You know who you are, and I’m sorry about that. I’m learning. I admit that I’m a luddite, but even my daughters have been impressed at how I’ve progressed in my tech education from pre-school to third grade in just a week. Maybe by the end of this period, I’ll be the equivalent of a high school graduate!
I would love to learn more from you – how you’re staying connected with your classmates, colleagues, and friends. I’m not just asking students, faculty and staff – I’d love to hear from alumni as well. I spoke to an alum this week who told me she held a mini-reunion via Zoom. About 20 alums from the class of 2005 showed up on camera in their Tulane gear, and they spent more than two hours catching up with each other over video. So please – send me your stories about how you have managed to stay connected virtually. You can send these to me in a direct message.
Before signing off today, I just want to tell you how much I genuinely miss all of you. I’ve never been more proud to be a Tulanian than this very moment. I look forward to hearing from you, and students -- you might see me dropping in on some of your classes over the next month! Thank you all for tuning in. Have a good week, have a great week everyone -- and remember: Roll Wave.