I am happy to welcome all of our faculty, staff, and students back from the winter break. I hope everyone managed to get some rest and enjoy a gentle end to the year 2020, and welcome the beginning of 2021.
Having endured and coped with so much disruption, division, hardship and loss in 2020, we could not be blamed for hoping to catch a few breaks as the new year began. Alas, as the latest news on pandemic and last week’s afternoon of horror at the U.S. Capitol reminded us, the challenges facing our lives and society are still with us.
But we can take heart: Hope is on the horizon.
First, the federal government approved two COVID-19 vaccines last month for immediate use, and the incoming administration has prioritized accelerating the distribution of vaccines as rapidly as possible. Over the past week, Governor Cuomo announced a number of changes to the NY State COVID-19 vaccination distribution program, including an expansion to Phase 1b. Among those included in this second phase who are eligible to register today for vaccination are people age 75 and older, public sector transit and public safety employees, education workers (grades P-12), and in-person college instructors. For more information and to find out if you are eligible to receive the vaccine, please visit the NY State COVID-19 Vaccine website. As the State makes more determinations about who is eligible for vaccination, this will remain a fluid situation. We will do our best to share updated information from the State as soon as we receive it, but ultimately we all need to defer to the State about eligibility.
Second, whether you are on campus or connecting virtually, we have taken steps to provide you with resources, support and guidance to remain healthy and safe. I encourage everyone living or working on campus to visit the Campus Life During Covid-19 section of the Preparedness Site for updated health and safety guidelines and information, including requirements for gaining access to campus this semester. And I urge all faculty and staff to visit the COVID-19 Employee Resources site, which offers valuable and often essential guidance, resources, information, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions – all designed to help everyone among us to be at our best and make the best out of these challenging circumstances.
Third, we can draw wisdom and inspiration from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we will observe as a national holiday on Monday, January 18th. In looking back on the dark times we have experienced and even this past week, I have been reflecting not so much on what Dr. King “would say” if he were walking among us, but rather on how his words and deeds during his lifetime are speaking to us, teaching us, and offering us reasons to hope for a brighter tomorrow.
During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1964, Dr. King said, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered (men and women) have torn down (women and men) other-centered can build up.”
We at Teachers College are among the builders of that just society that Dr. King envisioned. And I believe we will succeed because of our community’s resilience, strength, and fundamental goodness. In that spirit, I urge that we devote ourselves on that day to earnest reflection and community service.
Thank you for your resilience and optimism. I wish you all a healthy and successful spring semester.
President, Teachers College