April 3, 2020
To all Bryant Students, Parents, Faculty, and Staff,
This is the third week since spring break ended on March 16, and our third week of online learning. Over the next two weeks we will enter what may be the most vulnerable and dangerous period for the spread of the Coronavirus to date. I just read that, as of today, over one million people have contracted the Coronavirus COVID-19 worldwide, and I don’t think this is an overstatement as many of those infected are asymptomatic or undiagnosed.
What we now do as individuals to mitigate the spread of this virus can make a real difference in how many people become infected and are lost to this terrible scourge. A vivid example to illustrate this point is the situation in New York. The first case of Coronavirus was confirmed there on March 1. By March 17, there were 1,374 cases and 12 deaths. Now, just three weeks later, there are 102,863 confirmed cases and the death number is approximately 3,000. Although NY is currently a “hotspot,” medical experts have suggested that this could be the pattern for other cities or states that have not yet experienced a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases. And this pandemic spares no country. Earlier this week I hosted a Zoom call with many of our international students who are living all over the world. Everyone is sheltering in place or self-quarantining. The efforts of individuals to mitigate the spread will make the difference everywhere.
One of the great dangers of this virus is that many carriers are asymptomatic, showing no signs of the illness. This may be especially true of young people who are sometimes still gathering in larger-than-recommended groups, thinking they are not vulnerable. This presents a real threat to parents, grandparents, and those with immune deficiencies. So please do everything you can to personally slow the spread of the virus over the next two weeks. To the degree possible, just stay home, study, read a book, watch a movie, and remain safe. If you must go out to shop for your family or perform other essential services – perhaps for a neighbor – wear a mask and gloves and take care to maintain social distancing. And remember to avoid placing anything you bring back to your home on surfaces like kitchen counters that others are likely to touch. There are many good websites that discuss shopping safety during this period of concern.
Fortunately, we have had no Coronavirus cases on campus. Those of us who are still residents here are being very careful to observe social distancing guidelines and good hygiene practices. I have washed my hands or used Purell so often my knuckles are raw, but that is a small price to pay. Please be safe, Bulldogs and families.
Late yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk on campus to see the blooming flowers (the sun came out for just a moment) and to get my 10k Fitbit steps. During my walk, I saw several students and their parents moving their final belongings out of their rooms. We waved, yelled “goodbye and be safe” at a distance, then they drove off. Such a sad ending to their semester.
But I also spotted the family of a prospective student who had come to visit our campus as she was about to make the decision about where to go to school next year. While maintaining necessary social distance, I showed them around our campus and talked about why our community is just the best; how everyone – faculty, staff and students – have rallied around to meet the challenges this virus has presented. I shared how impressed I have been with the optimism our community has maintained as we have adapted to teaching and learning online. The determination of everyone in the Bryant community to overcome this disruption and return to our campus stronger than ever is one of the traits of our community that makes me damn proud! As the family prepared to leave, the prospective student said she was about a week from making up her mind. However, I saw her go into the Bryant bookstore to buy some swag – a good sign that another great student may become part of the Class of 2024. The cycle of life continues at Bryant...
Our deposits remain about 5%-10% ahead of last year. I know this is a result of everyone who has helped, especially faculty, the hard-working Admission team, and our University Relations staff. We have had to cancel this year’s Scholarship Dinner and our Admitted Student Open House – which are always strong yield events providing prospective students an opportunity to meet students and faculty before committing – but we’ve gone virtual with a number of other outreach initiatives to share the many benefits of a Bryant education.
So, as we approach the last twenty class days left of this semester, let’s all continue to be safe, work hard, and be caring and supportive. I will have more to say about graduation and how we might be able to provide a pass/fail option in some cases. We have heard from many students on both sides of this issue and they have covered the advantages and disadvantages of various options quite well. We will weigh all of these considerations and provide an answer in the near future. In the meantime, stay focused and work hard, as I know our faculty are working hard to present compelling and effective education online.
And, as we approach Passover, Easter, and Ramadan – which will certainly be different this year – let us all give thanks for the many blessings we have experienced and ask God to continue to give us strength and health, and to watch over us all.
Kati and I miss everyone so very much. It just isn’t the same without the campus humming with activities and enthusiastic students, faculty, and staff everywhere. But we will get past this disruption and come out on the other side stronger and even more committed to this wonderful institution.
Be safe, stay healthy, call a friend and help a neighbor.
Ronald K. Machtley
PS: After writing this note, I received a lovely email from the prospective student on tour; she deposited and is a confirmed Bulldog in the Class of 2024.