There have been many stories regarding outbreaks of COVID-19 on college campuses, sometimes leading to closures. The decision to resume on-campus learning this fall at Hood College was one of the most difficult of my presidency, but remote learning in the spring had proven to be a formidable barrier to our students’ continued academic progression.
On Aug. 3, when students started returning to campus, I had my doubts that we would make it. I am happy to share that, with finals ending on Wednesday, Nov. 25, we did make it, which has in fact been the case for the majority of colleges and universities.
Due to the efforts of trustees, faculty, staff and students, and in partnership with public health leaders, we created a plan that guided us to this moment. We conducted weekly surveillance testing, administering more than 2,500 tests, and never saw a cumulative positivity rate over 1.2 percent. We provided faculty, staff and students with masks, hand sanitizers and digital thermometers, and instituted a mask mandate from day one. Social distancing signage and protective barriers were placed in classrooms, labs, the dining hall, offices and all public areas. We pitched tents to increase outdoor seating for eating and classrooms. Every campus community member committed to the following pledge:
With my mind, I will take responsibility for my own health so as to protect others and help keep the Hood community safe from the spread of COVID-19; with my heart, I will encourage others to comply with College protocols; with my hands, I will do my part to keep campus safe, every hour, every day.
I am deeply grateful to the Hood community for achieving our primary goals to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 on campus and to fulfill our mission to provide the best educational experience possible. Our stellar employees overcame substantial challenges to teach, feed and support our students, to keep our campus clean, to upscale our technology, and so much more. And I am so proud of our amazing students who demonstrated great resolve and veracity in following the protocols — it was their choices that made the difference.
These results however, only were successful due to the support of many community leaders and Hood friends, so I especially want to take this opportunity to thank them for their assistance. For the leadership of Governor Hogan, County Executive Gardner and Mayor O’Connor, for Dr. Barbara Brookmyer and the staff at the Frederick County Department of Health, for Tom Kleinhanzl and the staff at Frederick Health for providing testing and caring for our sick, for our neighbors who followed our protocols while visiting campus, and for the many Hood supporters who helped us meet the needs of our students — a heartfelt thank you.
This year, it may seem there is not a lot to be thankful for, yet we must try to find the lemonade in the COVID lemons. For me, it is an even deeper appreciation of how fortunate I am to be a part of this community.