Update from President Kurt Dykstra, March 17, 2020

Dear Trinity Faculty and Staff:

Thank you for a very positive, if somewhat odd, first couple days of the Spring Semester Rebooted.  I sensed – even if at a distance! – the continuation of the attitude that I described last Friday.  To a person, we are doing what needs to be done so that we can serve our students best.  We are a missional place and comprised of missional people.  We know that God remains in control and that, Jesus, who not only healed the sick but also conquered death itself, remains our Lord and Savior.  In those moments where life seems most out of control, I cannot help but think of that phrase from the Heidelberg Catechism that “without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head.”  These are comforting words, indeed.

Trinity’s senior administration keeps up with all of the policy changes being enacted by federal and state entities.  As you know, starting today, at the order of the Governor, all bars and restaurants are closed to the public.  The President last night announced additional restrictions and urged additional voluntary measures to “flatten the curve” of the virus’ spread.

This remains a fluid situation; things have, can, and will change in this unprecedented situation.  You have been receiving various email updates over the past week or so.  We could send fewer messages or less comprehensive ones, I suppose.  I prefer that you have the relevant information before you.  My hope is that having regular updates (even if that update includes more than a few “we’re still figuring that out” or “that is what we know for now” or “due to changed circumstances, here is what we’re doing now” sentences) is helpful to you and provides some calm in these turbulent times

So, in that spirit, here are some updates for your consideration.

Last week, the Human Resources office offered guidance on remaining home if you believed that your health was already impacted or that you were concerned that your health could be impacted by attending work.  Some have utilized these options with the support of your supervisors.

Starting tomorrow, we ask that you elect to work from home if you are able to do so.  If you have particular responsibilities at Trinity that make working from home impracticable or especially difficult, please contact your supervisor.  The same is true if your responsibilities at Trinity could be done from home but you have some technology needs in order to do so.  Your supervisors and the senior leadership of the College will work to resolve these issues as best as possible as quickly as possible.

You received on Friday a very helpful email from IT’s Kevin Jacobs, regarding resources to help with remote work.  I encourage you to keep that email – and the links in it – close at hand in the coming weeks.  As a personal aside, let me highly recommend Microsoft Teams; the President’s Council (and other groups on campus) have been using it this week and are impressed by it (and I’m a Mac guy, remember!).

We will let you know when this remote work arrangement changes or is lifted.

Beginning tomorrow, all campus buildings (with exceptions noted below) will be able to be accessed by key-card only.  This action saves human resources, natural resources, financial resources, and hopefully slows (if not outright restricts) the spread of germs.  All campus buildings (with the exceptions noted below) also will have lights turned off and the HVAC set to an “away” mode.  Rest assured, you will be able to access these buildings with your key card, but we simply do not want people working regularly from them.

Only the Administration Building, the Huizenga Library, and Tibstra Hall will remain in normal operational mode.  Even so, please utilize telephonic or electronic means as much as possible to communicate with persons in these “normal” buildings; we are a social people but we are a smart people, too!

The Campus Safety Office will be moving temporarily into Fusion59 in the Huizenga Library.  Its telephone numbers will remain the same during this temporary relocation.

The BBC remains open for limited hours and service through Wednesday.  Please note that it is only Grab and Go service – no dining seating is permitted.

Effective immediately and until further notice, all campus departments are expected to suspend any discretionary purchases.  Please adhere to the spirit, as well as letter, of this policy change as a way to reduce our campus expenditures.  Divisional vice presidential written approval is required for any discretionary purchase.

Nearly all of the students have returned home.  Student Life has worked with a very small number of students who, for one reason or another, cannot leave campus.  Student Life continues to work with these remaining students to ensure that they will be cared for, will have food, and will have the necessary support during their residence on campus.

Eventually, these remaining students will be housed in Tibstra Hall, where full kitchens are available in every apartment.  I am very grateful to the Student Life staff for making this a smooth transition, all things considered.  Our Area Directors, in particular, have been exceptional in this process – and remember, they, along with a few others, live full time on campus.  For these few employees, Trinity’s campus, literally, is home.  Student Life surely received helpful assistance from others on campus (e.g., Campus Safety, Physical Plant, certain faculty members, Creative Dining Services, etc.) and I am grateful for the collaborative, pragmatic, student-centric approach that we took.

Though we really did not want to do so, it has proved a very good decision to announce last week that our students needed to return home rather than have general options for remaining in campus housing.  In fact, we are seeing other campuses across the country who last week took a more permissive approach to campus housing, this week adopt a more Trinity-esque approach.

We have been working with our students studying off campus, whether in downtown Chicago or internationally, making sure that they are safe, generally, by getting them home promptly.  These are both Trinity students and students from other institutions studying in Trinity programs (e.g., Chicago Semester and Semester in Spain).  That work continues, and we are hopeful that it will be completely resolved in the next couple of days.  I received a text message even this morning that one of our students finally was able to arrive safely in the United States and was back with family.

• • •

This message, others before it, and a growing array of information for you, for students and their families, and for the general public is available at www.trnty.edu/covid19.  That page will continue to grow and change over time.  But it is our repository of information related to the coronavirus situation.  Please keep checking that site for information, along with keeping a close read of your email and following Trinity’s social media accounts.

We are a Romans 12:12 people.

Let us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

Kurt D. Dykstra, President

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