It was one-year ago this week that Syracuse University made the decision to close down campus, as the COVID pandemic was rapidly growing. Chancellor Kent Syverud is reflecting on that year … and remembers being questioned as the University initially tried to move forward.
“We had a lot of people telling us what we were proposing to do couldn’t be done, which was to reopen in August.”
The goals were to have a safe campus for students, and to keep staff and faculty employed – while following health guidelines.
“We had to make a bunch of judgment calls under uncertainty, and some of them were scary ones to make. … Test all our students before they came back to campus in August, which a that time contradicted CDC guidelines. It was the right one, but it was scary.”
Virtual classes became hybrid or optional in-person learning. Syverud adds staff also had to adapt to ever-changing knowledge of the virus.
“I’ve never seen as dramatic a series of changes in as short a period of time, all our facilities, all our technology, all our services at the same time. Everybody had their own personal extraordinary challenges. And I think that’s just a testament to the people here.”
A lot of creativity followed. He singles out how the Setnor Music School kept students learning and practicing.
“Everything from a marching band to a chorus. They’ve had to do rehearsals in the Dome and on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. … But it’s been pretty extraordinary what they’ve been able to do, including with technology, to enable them to enable their mission to be continued.”
Finally, Syverud praises students, knowing they weren’t going to be perfect, but could act responsibly for the school and for the community.