Monday marks the start of the Fall 2020 semester at Cameron University. Almost everything about the 2020-2021 academic year will be different for us.
Think of it. Take a disease as virulent as the Spanish Flu of 1918, combine it with a major and continuing economic downturn that rivals the Great Depression, add in the potential for civil rights-related unrest on a scale last seen in the late 1960s and, like it or not, it has created the year in which we currently find ourselves. Anyone who is uneasy or uncertain – or outright scared – has good reason, and you are not alone. The past few months have challenged many us to find a delicate balance between life, work and safety.
However you may feel about his political and social views, John Wayne summed up the current situation aptly for me when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” I pair that sentiment with Cameron’s first core value – student learning as our top priority – to explain the extraordinary commitment and creativity demonstrated by our educational community to continue to provide experiences and educational opportunities for our area children and adults even during these most unusual times.
Cameron is a vital engine of social mobility for our students, their families and for the generations to come. That engine is available, and should remain available, to EVERY CU student, not just the ones who have computers and internet connections at home. Our doors are still open and we are still teaching classes because every student deserves an educational opportunity. Our work matters and our community matters. Being flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances is an asset and I am confident that we will continue to find a path forward in support of our students.
Higher education may not be known for changing rapidly; yes, I do wear clothes older than most of our students! However, we do value expertise. I take pride in the subject matter expertise of our faculty and the expertise to share that knowledge with others. In these new circumstances with expertise in such short supply, CU is fortunate to have partners such as the Comanche County Health Department, local hospitals, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the OU Health Sciences Center. Individuals from these organizations regularly and generously share information and best practices that are tailored to southwest Oklahoma’s specific circumstances. I am grateful for the support and information that allows us to remain open and working to fulfill our mission for students in southwest Oklahoma and beyond.
Cameron has instituted many changes to help prepare us for a new school year just as I am sure that many more changes will be adopted and implemented during the days and weeks ahead. For now, we are practicing social distancing – especially in classrooms, library and high-traffic areas – adding hand sanitizer stations around campus, providing masks and other forms of personal protection to students and employees, testing new technology with air filtration and disinfecting processes, and minimizing student occupancy in our residential housing. Our physical facilities and information technology staff have worked diligently during the summer to adapt the campus to this new learning environment. I think every available electrical outlet has some type of gadget plugged in.
Many details about our numerous visual and performing arts programs and our intercollegiate athletics programs remain undecided. It is hard to toot our own horn, sing our students’ praises, or run that extra mile with a face covering and social distancing. We do know that we will postpone all of our indoor sports including volleyball and basketball to the New Year at the earliest. Our athletic conference is working to provide safe competition for outdoor sports such as tennis, golf, and cross country. The health and safety of our student body is a driving concern and that concern includes our student athletes and our student artists. I miss watching them, just as they miss performing and competing.
I invite you to “mask up” and visit our campus to see how Cameron University continues to provide an outstanding array of student-centered learning opportunities at an exceptional value. You can also check for yourself because we are still enrolling for fall classes whether you prefer to be in a seat or behind a computer monitor of some sort. Please stay safe and keep learning.
John McArthur is president of Cameron University