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July 16, 2020

The last three months have reminded me that the things which mean the most are also most easily taken for granted. Being together is one of those things. Coming together this fall is going to require students, faculty and staff to stretch our personal dispositions to engage in behaviors and habits that no one likes and that may even extend our core beliefs and fundamental assumptions.

Viruses have evolved in many ways to opportunistically prey on those things that make us most human. The interactions that mean the most to us are also the activities that spread COVID-19 most easily. This fact is what makes mask wearing, social distancing and sharing responsibility for changing our behavior so difficult.

Despite it being difficult, and despite it being frustrating, and despite it being controversial: all of us must abide by campus COVID-19 mitigation policies in order to keep campus open. The end of last semester taught me that seeing each other every day is a privilege. This privilege can be revoked by a single health order if we do not enforce mask wearing, social distancing, ongoing virus testing, contact tracing and other efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 this fall.

Here is what will be required of every student, faculty and staff member including me:

Once you are on campus, and test negative for COVID-19, please do not travel out of the area unless absolutely necessary. Instead, I encourage you to consider exploring the areas’ vast outdoor recreation opportunities. This may seem unreasonable to some, but — if the alternative is closure and lockdowns — I ask all of you to put forth your best effort to comply.

For students, I know college road trips are an American pastime, but the more of you who do not travel unnecessarily, the less likely that infection rates will trigger another closing of campus and closing of our community.

In our country today, sadly everything seems ideological and political. The latest fixture in society to be highly politicized is face coverings. Most people dislike wearing a mask. People generally have mixed feelings about the efficacy of cloth face coverings. You may even feel that a mask requirement violates liberties. While I can empathize with these feelings, we nonetheless must wear them. Not doing so increases the chances that the virus might be aerosolized and spread. Health authorities may require another campus closure if infection rates climb too high.

Many people will laugh at the idea of asking students to social distance and avoid house parties. I am asking you all not to engage in this behavior. When you are tempted to attend these events, know that if you contribute to the spread of COVID-19 outside of campus, and throughout the larger community, our togetherness will be threatened. Not only that, working to protect our community, that has a large retirement population, is the right thing to do.

The university experience is a multiple year journey. My hope is that only one of these years is disrupted. For the good of our Maverick family (The Herd) I am asking each one of you to consider setting aside personal hesitancy and resistance and to comply with campus mandates. This semester and potential future semesters rely on it.

I ask you to pledge to do your part: wash and sanitize your hands often; clean areas where you eat/live/study; wear your mask; know the symptoms and if you are not well stay home/in your residence hall; maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet when out on campus; participate in our testing and contact tracing protocols; and do not travel.

This is a small sacrifice for all of us to stay healthy and together on campus.

Sincerely,

Tim Foster, President