President Book provided this message on Sept. 23 regarding the increase in COVID-19 cases and other important issues.
Members of the Elon Community,
With some of us present on campus and others at a distance, I want to talk with you about our response to COVID 19, about a convoy that rode through campus last Saturday, some other events on campus and, finally, some thoughts about ways we can improve our communication with each other.
If we are doing this right, information leads to more questions, more learning. So for the next three Fridays at 1:30, I’ve asked members of senior staff to host three general question-and-answer sessions about campus operations and activities.
Everyone is invited. We’ll take your questions and discuss what’s on your mind. The first Town Hall will be online this Friday, September 25, at 1:30 p.m., and hosted by Provost Volety. We will send out an email with details about how you can join the conversation.
This week the campus moved to Level 3 on our COVID Alert Matrix—High Alert. This was in response to clusters of COVID—socially contracted among tight-knit groups. While we’ve seen the numbers decline the past few days, people are wondering what happens if we do reach Level 4—Very High Alert. If that happens, our plans would be to shelter the campus in place for two weeks, go to remote classes during that period, then test again for an all clear before reopening.
This strategy was used successfully by Notre Dame, and our Ready & Resilient team has already had communication with staff there to learn how to carry out this process. This plan is in line with the CDC recommendation that colleges with a surge in cases should not evacuate their campuses and send students back to their home communities.
Now, I’d like to talk about the un-permitted convoy that drove through our campus. We had seen social media posts about a rally that was being held in the county that had a convoy event attached to it. We did not know whether this caravan would come to our campus. It is not our practice to announce potential events, and convoys aren’t new—think motorcycles and vintage car drives. But political convoys are newer to the landscape and being used around the country.
I’ve asked a small group of students, campus safety officers and faculty/staff to have a round table and discuss lessons learned from Saturday’s event and what we might do differently in the future.
While most of the people who drove through our campus were respectful, we have documentation of at least two drivers shouting vile and racist taunts from their vehicles toward one of our faculty members. These were captured on video. These drivers’ behavior is by every measure despicable and we have sent no-trespass orders banning them from our campus. This is one of the legal options we have available to ensure the safety of our campus.
Every member of our community is entitled to respect … and I am committed to do everything in my power to ensure that. I was pleased that this terrible behavior has been publicly rejected by many in our community and several of the aldermen in the Town of Elon.
In addition to Saturday’s events, we have been challenged over the past several years with some trucks and cars driving through campus, shouting sexist and racist slurs from their vehicles, speeding, revving their engines, and being disruptive. This Saturday we received two reports to our bias system that drivers shouted sexist and racial slurs from their cars. We will handle these incidents using the same process—working with those who reported to identify the vehicles and issue no-trespass orders when we can determine who is responsible.
Elon University Campus Police has also increased patrols and presence to identify and ticket these drivers. We are also working with the town on a proposal to temporarily close and repurpose the main section of Haggard Avenue that runs through the middle of campus for student events this semester.
Our campus and country are hurting on multiple fronts, and in the middle of this painful time we are also coming to terms with the realities faced by persons of color in our community. Our student leaders in the Black Student Union organized a very successful and moving rally on campus recently. They shared stories of their experiences and called on their classmates, faculty and staff to see and acknowledge them and support them. The organizers invited Dr. Dooley and I to attend that event, but asked us to listen and not to speak. I was grateful for their leadership, the opportunity to listen and learn, the students who attended and I know Dr. Dooley was as well.
We are making progress on the diversity-equity-and-inclusion efforts on campus. While our progress may not be fast enough or action-oriented enough for some, I am confident we are progressing and in meaningful ways. I have not found anyone who works at Elon to be disingenuous. Instead, I find quite the opposite. This is an invested and caring community that may disagree on policies or approaches, but each one of us is working to create the most successful environment for students that we can. I have found that to be the real distinguishing factor for Elon as we come around the table to work together—that in the middle of our conversations is the common and shared goal of student success. In fact, that’s what gives me so much joy in this work and especially at this critical time—seeing each of you committed to each other.
All that said, if I did this right, you now have more questions! Please join us online over the next three Fridays for open dialogue. In the meantime, I want to implore every member of the community to be safe and secure, and to take care of yourself and those around you. There’s nothing more important in these difficult times.