By Dana Cadey

Interim President John Williams had an exciting update at today’s virtual employee town hall for those who have been following the long-lasting fight for locks on dormitory doors.

“Yes—we have locks,” announced Williams. “They’re ordered … and they will be going in this summer.”

Joined by Dean of Academics Meggan Madden and Dean of Students Maya Dietz, Williams opened the meeting with a variety of announcements, including an update that the administration will be hosting regular virtual discussions on the topic of racism in education. Art McCoy, superintendent of Jennings School District in St. Louis and former superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant School District, will be a guest speaker for these discussions.

Williams also welcomed the newest member of the Principia Board of Trustees, Inez Maubane Jones.

On top of the decision to implement locks on doors, the board approved other housing projects, including the installation of air conditioning in Brooks House.

Illinois is currently in Phase 3 of its pandemic response, which involves more lenient physical distancing practices than the previous two phases; the state is on track to move to Phase 4 (which approves the opening of educational institutions) at the end of this month, and the college plans to adjust its restrictions in accordance with the state’s actions, said Williams. 

Principia is in the process of “slowly opening up,” said Williams. The first step in this is allowing take-out from Dining Services, which will be available to all college employees and residents starting Monday, June 15.

In terms of the college’s athletics facilities, Athletics Director Ann Pierson said that the current plan is to open Hayfield gym on June 29 only to Principia employees, including student employees. Pierson said that social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, including practices like limiting the number of people allowed in the gym at a time and wiping down equipment after every use. 

The administration has set July 13 as the date to open the Crafton pool and a few weight rooms, again open only to employees. All spaces in both buildings will be cleaned by housekeeping at least once a day, said Pierson.

Williams said that the administration is considering options for making medical testing accessible to Principia students and faculty in the fall. He pointed to the probability that SLIAC, the athletic conference that Principia is part of, will require student athletes to undergo temperature checks prior to every game, which would amount to at least weekly testing for Principia athletes. 

One audience member voiced frustration over the administration’s reluctance to pinpoint whether or not students will be allowed to return to campus in the fall – a decision the administration pledged to make by July 1.

“I would love to make a firm decision that we are opening [in-person] in the fall,” said Williams. “…Our goal is to open face-to-face, in all likelihood with pretty significant social distancing. The vagueness comes from the complexity of trying to predict [state requirements] … and I understand that that’s not satisfactory.”

Madden said that it would be “twice the work” for the college to switch to a “HyFlex” (hybrid-flexible) course model, a scenario that combines elements of both online and face-to-face learning strategies.

Williams said that the administration will provide masks for everyone on campus if classes begin in-person in the fall. Dietz said that this requirement could be a good opportunity for the community to exercise its “Christian muscles,” and “hold each other accountable in a kind and generous way.”

Madden said that abroad programs are in the process of being reviewed, and the abroad office is working to make decisions about upcoming trips. An update on the Malawi Abroad will be made this Monday, and Madden warned that it is likely that the abroad will be cancelled due to travel restrictions. In terms of the fall abroad to Scotland and England, Madden expressed that it is still too early to make a definite verdict.

“We’re still watching what’s happening in the U.K. … to see if there are any adjustments that need to be made to the schedule, maybe pushing it back a bit,” said Madden. 

A celebratory activity for Sam Engel will be held tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. on the Principia cross country course. Williams encouraged anyone on or near the campus to join the commemoration by either walking or jogging the course, and emphasized that dogs are more than welcome.

Featured photo is a screenshot of Interim President Williams, Dean of Students Maya Dietz, and Dean of Academics Meggan Madden, clockwise from top left, during a virtual employee town hall today.