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By Dana Cadey
Friday, Nov. 13, three members of Principia College leadership held a virtual Town Hall meeting to address questions that arose from the rapid return to Orange Phase due to a confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus, as well as logistical uncertainties about both the current and upcoming semesters.
The meeting opened with a pre-recorded video from Jennifer Stollman, a specialist on the subjects of equity and inclusion. Stollman, a diversity and inclusion consultant hired by the college, will be on campus Monday and Tuesday of next week. She will be meeting with certain faculty and student groups in order to solidify an equity and inclusion plan. Stollman stressed that she wants to hear everyone’s individual interpretations of equity, as she is aware that not everyone holds the same views on this subject.
“Principia understands the importance of love and humanity, and understanding equity and inclusion helps us all fulfill the aspirations and values that we carry with us…as Christian Scientists,” said Stollman. “…Principia will decide how to develop and implement an equitable…cultural architecture. I will be listening and observing to record how Principia has been doing it well, and where Principia would like to do better.”
Dean of Academics Meggan Madden encouraged students and faculty to watch the fall campus play, The Taming of the Shrew, online. With the sudden return to Orange Phase yesterday, the actors had just a few hours before their performance to adjust to a live stream-only audience and modify their costumes to include face shields. The performances over the weekend ran as scheduled, but exclusively via live stream.
Dean of Students Maya Dietz invited students and faculty to read the draft of the new Student Code of Conduct and attend more virtual meetings related to the proposed changes. College president John Williams backed her up, saying, “Don’t let [COVID-19] get in the way of some creative thinking and participation.”
Turning Point USA, a politically-oriented club on campus, still hosted a guest speaker on Nov. 13, despite the stricter distancing protocols enforced through Orange Phase. The event was held with only nine live audience members, as the speaker herself brings the number of people in the building to the limit, 10.
Dietz said that the list of students approved for break housing is almost finalized, and that students will receive that information by Monday, Nov. 16.
“We’re going to be able to accommodate most people’s needs, [but] some we’re not going to be able to,” said Dietz. “We’re really focusing break housing on people that need to be here, like we did in the spring.”
Williams elaborated on the decision to return to Orange Phase, putting it in context of how local and state governments have been handling COVID-19 mandates. Williams emphasized that the student who tested positive did not break any protocols.
“We moved swiftly and did very quick contact tracing,” said Williams. “…We decided that we wanted to be as safe as possible to get everyone safely into their breaks.”
Williams also fielded questions related to the fast-approaching spring semester.
“We’re still thinking about opening school on January 25 and following the published schedule,” said Williams. “We’re going to have to probably follow all the same protocols in how we behave.”
Williams clarified that the ‘Plan B’ for spring semester is to conduct the first four weeks of classes remotely before returning and going through Red, Orange, and Yellow Phases, respectively. He also mentioned that, based on how this winter season goes, a fully-remote semester might be necessary.
Williams also explained that, in order for competitive sports to happen in the spring, Principia athletes will most likely need to undergo “a pretty rigorous set of protocols, which would include regular testing of athletes.”
Williams left the attendees on a note of positivity by talking about the extremely small number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus this semester – of which only one was a student.
“We have been exercising, in our community, both the most effective metaphysical approach and the most effective protocol approach,” he said. “Prayer is effective, and so are our protocols.”