The third week in March was unlike any in the history of the University. Over the span of a few days, we received news of the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UVA community, asked students to stay away from the Grounds, moved all classes online, announced that Final Exercises would not go on as scheduled, told staff to work remotely and developed the first local test for COVID-19 in Virginia. At the end of the week, I posted a video looking back at everything we had been through and, most importantly, thanking everyone involved.
I have no idea what the world will look like by the time you read this issue of Virginia Magazine in June. But I do know that the strength and character of the UVA family will be on vivid display then as it is now. It is for that reason that I want to share a condensed version of the message I sent in the early days of this crisis as a reminder of what we have collectively been through, and the extraordinary people who have sustained us during this challenging time.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
This has been a long and extraordinary week, filled with plenty of sadness and sacrifice, but also dedication and determination, as well as kindness and compassion.
It has been a week of sadness and loss for students who learned we would be online all semester and would not be able to proceed with graduation; for faculty and staff who were told to work at home if they could and who will have to forgo seeing their friends and colleagues in person; and for members of our community who are facing financial hardship. For all of you, I am truly sorry. At the same time, I’m grateful for those of you who are willingly making sacrifices for the benefit of others, and that is especially true of our students. As you well know, the steps we are taking—and the steps you are taking—are less about ourselves than they are about helping others who are much more at risk from the virus. But make no mistake: Your sacrifices, even if it’s not immediately apparent to you, are undoubtedly saving lives.
This has also been a week of herculean effort and innovation. Consider the students who, even as they processed their own grief, created the Hoos Helping Hoos network that connects students who need assistance with members of the community who can offer it. Or consider the spectacular faculty and staff who, with creativity, intense work and good cheer, found a way to take 4,200 classes online in a week.
This has also been a week of remarkable dedication. We saw staff from Student Affairs, RMC Events, Facilities Management and the UVA Police Department pull together to help students move out of dorms. We saw a team from Student Financial Services who, in less than 24 hours, created a system to help students who needed financial assistance traveling home. We saw a team from across the entire University work together to get a COVID-19 clinic up and running in record time.
This has been a week of remarkable support and compassion. Our alumni have reached out, asking how they can help and have offered to host students who need a place to live. Our parents have encouraged their students to come home and have donated to the Student Life and Leadership Fund, which is helping to make sure all students have what they need to finish the semester away from the Grounds.
Finally, this week has made it clear just how incredibly fortunate we are to work alongside the team at UVA Health. Our challenges and sacrifices, as great as they might be, pale in comparison with those facing our health system colleagues, and they have more than risen to the task. This includes those who make the hospital run by, among other things, stocking carts, cleaning floors and helping people get where they need to go. It includes the researchers who have developed a test for the coronavirus on the Grounds—reducing the time it takes to get a result from days to hours. And it includes the doctors and nurses who have volunteered to care for patients with the virus—potentially risking their own health to save others.
I have been a part of this community for 30 years. I have never felt more fortunate to be a part of it than I do today. I have said before and will say again that my highest aspiration for this University is that we will be the ones of whom it is said: They are not just great; they are also good. This week I saw, up close, just what great and good looks like. Thank you.