By Sophie Hills

In 1985 as a way to metaphysically address the measles epidemic, the Principia community began meeting for a daily Quiet Hour. It has continued to be observed on weekdays since, until the shift from on-campus living and learning to remote classes. During the third virtual Employee Town Hall today dealing with a wide range of issues – from students on campus violating the Illinois shelter-in-place order to employee questions about benefit cuts – one unnamed employee wrote a question asking why Quiet Hour  hasn’t been supported since the shift to remote learning.

“That’s one of my obligations as president, is to say absolutely yes … you’re right,” said Interim President John Williams, agreeing that the daily quiet hour should be continued remotely.

Although Quiet Hour has not yet been organized remotely, Exploring Metaphysical Concepts (a weekly community metaphysical time), individual house quiet hours, and CSO testimony meetings continue to be held, said Maya Dietz, dean of students. Many offices are also holding prayer watches, said Dietz, including her own. 

Community members have found their own ways to observe quiet hour in different ways, at different times. Many Principians join a weekly Bible Lesson-reading Zoom meeting on Monday nights hosted by Crystal Lake Camps, and sophomore Viviane de Castro organized a group to discuss one section of the Bible Lesson each day.

On the issue of shelter-in-place rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Williams said he has “removed two students from campus for behavior that jeopardizes our health.”

However, said Dietz, students still on campus because they can’t return home have been “mostly receptive” to the rules and community safety guidelines they’ve been asked to follow, said Dietz.

Joining Dietz, Williams, and Meggan Madden, dean of academics, were David Walters, chief financial officer for The Principia, and Howard Berner, chief investment officer for The Principia.

Walters kicked things off by explaining that his goal is to put community members’ concerns to rest about whether the current crisis and its financial effects are putting Principia at risk.

Presenting Principia-wide numbers, Walters explained that reduced spending caused by cancellations of regular business and academic activities against missed revenues and refunds leaves Principia ahead slightly financially by $125,000.

“We’re gonna sail in pretty close to what the budgeted number was originally,” said Walters. “The bottom line is, it’s not a huge event.”

But, said Berner,  “It’s a serious event from the standpoint of its impact on [Principia’s] endowment [which pays 70% of Principia’s yearly expenses].”  Offering an update on Principia’s investments, he oriented the attendees to the status of the economy, and of Principia within that. This was the worst quarter in financial market history, he said. Principia’s earnings have evaporated in the market decline, and while Principia is not in imminent danger, it’s important to consider next-steps for continued growth of the endowment, said Berner.

In brighter news, the School of Government construction is two-to-three weeks ahead of schedule, said Walters. Christmas of 2020 remains the contractor’s goal.

“This is an opportunity to express joy,” said Williams, wishing everyone a Happy Good Friday as he closed the meeting.

Featured photo at top a screen grab of Zoom employee Town Hall. Counterclockwise from top left: Maya Dietz, dean of students; Davi d Walters, chief financial officer; Meggan Madden, dean of academics; Howard Berner, chief investment officer; and John Williams, interim president.