Subject: Socially connected during COVID-19
Date: April 1, 2020

Dear Colleagues, Students, and Extended Calvin Community:

With overwhelming gratitude, I am proud to say that our university has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect our students, staff, and faculty in the last two weeks as well as to “flatten the curve” for the benefit of those with whom we live and work. To create safety in this pandemic, our students have uprooted themselves while our staff and faculty have worked around the clock. The personal adjustments you have each made have not been easy, and I thank you all.

We are in a strange new place. An easy first reaction to anything novel is fear. Indeed, any news feed will show you the profound “othering” effects of rampant fear, xenophobia, and selfishness right now. These acts, however, are unacceptable. They are beneath us. In the wise words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Truly, fear and division are our only enemies here. And, as our mission statement reminds us, we are called to “act justly.”

Unfortunately, crises do not affect everyone equally. Changes that are easy for some are difficult for others, leaving many of our own valued community members feeling vulnerable, frustrated, and unsafe. While COVID-19 is a health crisis, it may also be a crisis of societal division. We can’t let that happen here.

One of our core values at Calvin is Diversity and Inclusion—valuing each unique member of our campus and greater communities. Here are just eight things I urge you to adopt so we can make this process easier for all of us:

  1. Physically distance, yet socially connect. Even as we create the physical gaps that slow this virus, we must in fact remain socially connected. Recreate your social life virtually. Check in with one or two people each day, especially anyone you know who is alone or undergoing hardship. Create social video chats, call family and friends on the phone, text someone a “thank you.”
  2. Be an ally or “upstander” and invite others to join you. Stand up to racist, ageist, xenophobic, classist, or other speech that divides our community into “us” and “them.” We are all valuable and have a role to play. Especially, stand up against the denigration of anyone in our Asian community at this time.
  3. Call it by its name. Use the correct term for the virus, “novel coronavirus,” and for the disease, COVID-19. No other names are acceptable.
  4. Affirm others. When you are out walking, maintaining safe physical distance, do make friendly eye contact with others you meet; smile or say something affirming. Call strangers “friend” as a greeting. Affirm those who are working to serve you.
  5. Share financially. Not everyone can move, work from home, survive without a job, or go virtual. All of us benefit in the long run when we help our most vulnerable neighbors now. As you are able, please support nonprofits such as: food pantries, charities for those who have lost jobs, community services, or our hardworking medical and first responder communities.
  6. Be kind and patient with one another. This is new for all of us, so let’s be extra kind, extra patient. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Even better, ask others if you can help them with anything.
  7. Set a personal goal. It feels better to be proactive than to be stuck in a reactive mode. Set a personal goal (or 2-3) for this time of sheltering. What can you accomplish? With whom can you reconnect?
  8. Take care of yourself. We are all under multiple sources of extreme stress. Especially if you have dependents, get rest, eat healthily, do something calming, go for a walk or do yoga. Follow all government health recommendations as well.

Let’s refuse to give this pandemic permission to obscure our view of humanity and to shred our connection with each other. These eight ideas embody the values we hold as a community, and they will continue to keep our communities strong.

And let us remember to pray …

  • Pray for our national, state, and local leaders.
  • Pray for countries outside of the United States.
  • Pray for first responders, healthcare workers, public safety officers, national guard, and military.
  • Pray for our students who were not able to return home.
  • Pray for essential personnel who are working on campus to keep buildings and grounds clean, and people fed, safe, and well.
  • Pray for our faculty and staff as they adjust a new normal.
  • Pray for our Board of Trustees.
  • And Pray that God will heal and comfort those who are afflicted with disease and dis-ease.

Together, we can come out of this pandemic stronger than we went into it.

With gratitude,

Michelle R. Loyd-Paige, PhD
Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion