In town hall address, Norwich President Mark C. Anarumo stresses need for collective accountability as fall semester nears

And away we go.

This past Thursday, in his final town hall address before student arrivals, President Mark C. Anarumo said Norwich University worked cohesively and diligently to prepare for the new semester.

Anarumo, who became the university’s 24th president in May, succeeding Richard W. Schneider, is embarking on his first Norwich University academic year. Speaking on livestreamed video from Jackman Hall, Anarumo said the university will remain committed, as it has for 201 years, to honor, integrity, civic duty, and equal representation.

“The only way we get to do this (semester) is as a community, and that means not walking past the problem. ... The corrective action you take can be what keeps us open for the fall term.”Norwich University President Mark C. Anarumo

Anarumo said the first big on-campus COVID-19 testing event, on Wednesday at Plumley Armory, went smoothly, thanks to thoughtful planning and execution. He praised Nursing Director Paulette Thabault and Norwich’s nursing students, who helped run the testing, and Assistant Vice President for Leadership and Student Experience Tracey Poirier, who helped organize it.

Anarumo took the day’s first test, which was self-administered; several hundred faculty members and some staff members followed.

“That kind of efficiency and excellence is not achieved by accident,” he said.

Anarumo lauded many other campus departments for readying campus for the 500 to 600 students who arrived over the weekend on the first of six staggered arrival dates. Anarumo especially praised Facilities Operations, which prepared the grounds, student dormitories and classrooms, and faculty, who are preparing for hybrid learning when classes resume Aug. 31.

“They’ve been hitting moving targets all summer,” Anarumo said of the professors.

Questions and answers

In the hourlong session, Anarumo answered a wide range of questions and made a few revelations. Here’s a sampling:

— Graduation deferred: December Class of 2019 graduates or May Class of 2020 graduates denied their chance to cross the stage by coronavirus shutdown will get a chance to walk at one commencement when the pandemic passes and the rite returns. The invitation will remain open, he said, until all the May 2020 and December 2019 graduates who want to stage-walk have.

arrivals 2020 part 2 min
The first of six staggered Fall 2020 semester arrival dates for Norwich students came over the Aug. 8, 2020, weekend. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

“It could be next May,” Anarumo said of the deferred downstage graduation promenade. “It could be 10 years from now, it could be 50 years from now.”

The Class of 2020’s commencement, postponed from the spring, will run virtually Sept. 12. President Emeritus Richard W. Schneider will speak.

— Closed campus: For the health and safety of the Norwich and Northfield communities, the university will close to anyone who isn’t faculty, staff or student through Sept. 9. The policy, which will limit movement on and off campus, will be reviewed Sept. 9 and a new policy will be installed Sept. 14, Anarumo said. He attended Tuesday’s Northfield Select Board meeting to discuss the policy with townspeople. 

“If everything is great and things are going great, we’ll be able to (evaluate) loosening restrictions,” he said.

— Masks: Students have been asked to bring masks from home but will also be issued two each and instructed on how to best use and clean them. Anarumo modeled a university-issue mask, a cotton washable, reusable model in basic black, pairable with Corps uniforms or civilian clothes.

— Dorm room cleaning: Dorm rooms, as is standard, will be cleaned every day; areas and bathrooms will be cleaned extra.

“We’re sparing no expense to keeping a safe environment,” Anarumo said. “It’s going to be a very aggressive cleaning protocol.”

For complete coverage of student questions, visit norwich.edu/psa.

Self-assessing

In the town hall, Anarumo called on students to keep the university healthy by assessing their health every day before they step onto campus and isolating if they feel ill. Classes will be online for them to take, he said, and there will be no penalty. All employees planning to be on campus must also complete a daily health assessment.

arrival part 2 4 min
Acknowledging the need to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, students wore face masks and observed physical distancing as they arrived on Norwich University’s campus the weekend of Aug. 8, 2020. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Also, Anarumo said, all people on campus will need to remind one another about protocols, including the need to wear masks. Anarumo said if students should ever spot him maskless when he should be covered, they should remind him.

“The only way we get to do this (semester) is as a community, and that means not walking past the problem,” he said. “We have to hold each other accountable. The corrective action you take can be what keeps us open for the fall term.”

Anarumo acknowledged that students, and everyone else on campus, are anxious and wary. But, as ever, Norwich will work together to show one another empathy and kindness, and manage the challenges.

The effort, he said, will resonate on campus and beyond.

“I sincerely believe the nation needs us now more than ever and the world does as well,” he said. “We do have a critical role to play in facing the crises facing our world and we’re not going to shy away from those challenges.

“We’re going to do great things together. Norwich together, Norwich forever.”

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