September 20, 2021

The VPSL Column | September 20, 2021

Happy Monday, students!

Welcome to week 4 of the academic semester. I hope you are settling into the rhythm of the academic year and are enjoying your classes and classmates. Midterms are just around the corner, so stay engaged with your class work and keep putting in the hard work.

Overall, we are still doing very well in terms of COVID positivity rates:

  • COVID-19 cases: As of September 17, of the 1048 tests conducted on campus in September, there were 5 positive on-campus and 5 off-campus cases which equates to a positivity rate of 0.48. Additionally, we now have the majority of information regarding vaccine status for law, grad and undergraduate campuses. Over 98% of our student body, and a similar percentage of staff and faculty, are vaccinated. That, coupled with the relatively low positivity rates in Portland, is part of the reason we see such low community transmission. I know you know that we have to stay vigilant, make good decisions, and follow our health mitigation measures to ensure that we keep that positivity rate low so we can enjoy being in school, socializing and being with one another.

My message this week will be a little longer than usual because I want to take a little time to talk about something important: the need for all of us to have balance in our lives. Even though we have good news on the low transmission rate front, there is still a fair amount of understandable anxiety in our community. Some of you are worried about the decisions and behaviors of your classmates who may be taking unnecessary risks or you worry that an unvaccinated student might transmit the virus to you. Professors are worried they will contract COVID from their students and perhaps take it back to their unvaccinated children. Your parents are worried that the school is not doing enough to monitor and assess COVID 19 in the campus community. If there’s one thing we can all probably agree upon about COVID is that it has made us all afraid. Afraid of the unknown, afraid to take risks, afraid to realize we are not in control, afraid to think about the future—and on and on.

What we should challenge ourselves to think about is: how can we become better at living with the unknown and managing the anxiety associated with living in a pandemic by taking calculated risks. This is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to do something even if we don’t totally know the outcome-— and to do so in a safe, smart way. It’s time for us to figure out how to live our lives in the age of COVID as opposed to COVID being our lives.

You only have one college experience and you should make the most of it. Try new things, take classes in a subject that you have no familiarity with but are curious to learn about, reach out to someone who is very different from you and learn about their way of being in the world, try something you are afraid to do, start something new. I encourage you all to ask yourselves: how can I be involved and engaged at LC in the time of COVID? What feels right for me?

The last two years have been difficult; namely because we have never been in a global pandemic before. An article in the New York Times stated about COVID: “In some places, public health experts and elected officials are disagreeing on what is and isn’t safe. That means we’re getting a range of cultural cues and we may struggle to parse out which cues to follow.” That is why we have tried to communicate often with all of you about the best ways to stay safe, to take care of yourself and take care of one another. Hopefully, you have been sharing ways to engage safely and smartly with your peers, too, because you learn best from those you are the closest to.

Yes, we are doing well right now in regards to our community transmission rates–that is not by chance. Being on a highly vaccinated campus, ensuring that we are making good decisions and following health mitigation measures—that is the way to ensure that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms that we all want and love. So keep up the good work, think about ways that you want to be engaged and to help others be engaged, and do so smartly. I know that you will.

As always, WeB4Me@LC.

Sincerely,

Robin H. Holmes-Sullivan
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students

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1 Why You’re Probably Not So Great at Risk Assessment. Shilton, A.C. New York TImes, June, 2020.