Dear members of the Washington University community,
On Wednesday, I wrapped up the last class of “Free Speech on Campus,” the course I have been teaching this semester with Professor Lee Epstein. It was quite surreal to think it was the last class meeting of the fall term — a fall that has been like no other in the history of Washington University or higher education in general.
Yet, at the same time, it also seemed somewhat normal. Yes, masking and physical distancing while in the classroom — or needing to conduct coursework remotely — is not what any of us had in mind for this fall. However, we muddled through — and with tangible examples of leadership, service, critical dialogue, resilience, and collective strength at that! Indeed, whether you are a student, faculty, or staff member, you have risen to the occasion time and time again this fall, and we couldn’t have pulled off a successful semester without you as well as our spirit of solidarity and togetherness.
Now here we are and the same end-of-semester thoughts, conversations, greetings, and farewells still apply: The culmination of a semester of hard work. Anticipations of winter break and needed retreat. Holiday greetings and December gatherings (albeit virtually). And the longing to celebrate meaningful traditions.
While all of this is happening and our term is wrapping up, we must be cognizant of the fact that a large portion of our university community — our front line healthcare workers — will not get much of a break these next few weeks as they continue the fight against COVID-19 in conditions that are continually dire.
This thought alone gives me mixed emotions this season. On the one hand, many of us enjoy the comfort of knowing that time for resting and recharging is on the horizon. On the other, our hospitals and healthcare providers are being stretched to the limits. And even though our plans for a vaccine rollout on the Medical Campus are moving ahead as scheduled, it will still be months before we can see light at the end of the tunnel.
While these circumstances serve as tangible reminders that we are often a “tale of two campuses,” may we also be reminded this holiday season that, though the roles we play in service of this community are diverse and wide-ranging, each of us has a significant role to play — both to advance our mission as well as in response to COVID-19.
No matter your circumstances this winter, I truly hope you can take time to reflect on the value you add here at Washington University, throughout the St. Louis region, across the country, and around the world. Even though the holidays look a little different this year, please know that there is one important constant — and that is how grateful I continue to be for you and for this community. Thank you, as always, for your steadfast commitment to our WashU mission and for your relentless pursuit of knowledge, innovation, community outreach, equity, justice, and patient care. To those of you who will work tirelessly on the front lines, know that the rest of us will be thinking of you and championing your efforts.
To that end, warmest wishes to you this holiday season. Be well. Stay safe. And whether you have one day, five days, or two weeks off, I hope you take time to enjoy the traditions and quiet moments that bring you comfort and peace in this most uncertain time.
Andrew D. Martin