Sustaining community despite our distance

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A deep breath is certainly in order this week. The whirlwind we’ve been swept into over the past month has been both wholly unpredictable and staggering in its breadth. My hope is that spring break gives us all a chance to exhale, to take stock of the good things in our lives, and to focus on our future beyond COVID-19. Though we have some uncertainty about when that future will come into focus, I know we will get there and that our UCSC community will be more resilient as a result of the challenges we have overcome together.

The most obvious change for most of us is that we’ve had to step away from campus. Students will be learning remotely in the spring quarter, taught by faculty themselves testing new teaching methods. Many of our close-knit staff teams will be scattered, held together by email chains and Zoom conference calls rather than morning conversations around communal coffee makers. All this is hard, especially at a university so grounded in its sense of place. Our campus is one of the most beautiful, peaceful spots in the world — ironically the exact kind of place we need to be in stressful times like these.

To offer our community a bit of that campus calm, we’ll soon launch a video feature called the UCSC Minute. Look at it as your weekly 60 seconds of campus calm. We’re going to experiment in this spot over the quarter, looking for other ways to keep our campus community connected. Look for our popular Slug Stories on Instagram, tweaked just a bit to show how our Slugs are adapting to these changing times. We want to see our proud students in their new, temporary study habitats. Watch our Instagram feed for details on submitting pictures. We’ll also be seeking input on your favorite campus spots, for a still-developing photo feature.

We’ll continue with our normal steady flow of stories profiling the creative folks who make up our community, and we’ll keep chronicling the achievements of our students, staff and faculty. You can also expect to find regular updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, with details on how Slugs are helping lead the fight against it. You’ll hear from me on occasion, and from other campus leaders, too. Equally important, though, we’ll want your voices — students, staff and faculty. If there’s anything we must keep in mind right now, it’s that we are all in this together.

In that vein, I’d like to note the incredible compassion and cooperation I’ve seen demonstrated by so many of you over the past month. Our faculty have jumped feet-first into the challenge of remote teaching. Our students have taken massive life changes in stride. Our staff have shown incredible resiliency, a willingness to roll up their sleeves and to try new ways of doing business. I am grateful for all of you and reminded that crises, while unwelcome, also have the ability to bring out the best in people. That’s certainly what I’ve seen on our campus.

As we move toward the start of the spring quarter, it’s important that we remain patient, grounded in the understanding that we’re together in uncharted waters. Please stay active and engaged and unplug when you need to. Take that daily walk or continue to be active in other ways. Remember that this is all temporary, and that campus will soon be fully alive again. Until that time, we will continue to create community in other ways. Fiat Slug!