Fall 2020 welcome back message from Dr. Xavier Cole

Greetings Marquette students,

I’m Dr. Xavier Cole, vice president for student affairs here at Marquette, sending you this message from the AMU. I hope this message finds you, your family and your loved ones safe, well, and cared for. Never have these three basic states of being been so important to us as a Marquette, and global community. We are so glad to have you back with us virtually and/or in person! Hundreds of Marquette faculty and staff have been preparing classrooms, offices and familiar spaces on campus for your return.

The purpose of this message is to help prepare you to enter a campus that has, in many ways, been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please know that things will be different — they will look different and even sound different. Our daily vocabulary now includes terms such as: social distancing, PPE and  quarantine. None of us desired these changes, but they are necessary to keep us all safe. We must do our part to protect each other and slow the spread of COVID-19 on and off campus. It is easy to be discouraged by news reports of failed attempts at college openings, but all news is local. You (and WE, the Marquette Community) are the authors of Marquette’s story.

To that end, we are asking every single member of our community, whether you reside on or near campus, or if you are living at home with families, to commit to a few very simple, safe practices:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask or face covering (taking care to cover both your mouth and nose).
    • “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.”
  • Maintain a safe social distance (six feet) between yourself and others.
  • Complete COVID Cheq, a new online daily symptom screening. In this screening, we’re asking you to voluntary disclose if you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

It’s extremely important that we take care to do all these measures every day.

These behaviors will require us to re-commit to the Marquette community.  All of our actions matter—mine and yours. We all desire a similar outcome — to have a full semester where we can teach, live, learn and study as a Marquette community. But if we as a community don’t follow these simple expectations, we may not be able to stay on campus. It’s as simple as that.

Returning to campus in these ways creates a tremendous amount of unease and uncertainty. It’s only normal. To these ends, please know that self-care is extremely important. Please do access the resources available, in our Medical Clinic, Counseling Center, Wellness Office in the 407 HUB, and Campus Ministry.

You also might be wondering about how you will successfully navigate campus with all the new social distancing measures in place. Given all the new behaviors that both new and returning students will have to adopt as we begin the academic year, Student Affairs is initiating the Make the Difference Ambassador program. This team of students will help direct students to classroom buildings (or even classrooms); remind students to put on their masks and maintain physical distance; and provide masks to students who may have forgotten their own. None of us are perfect. This happens sometimes. We got your back. The Ambassador program will be in place for the first month of the semester as we settle into our new routine.

Many students have been asking about study spaces on campus between classes. Obviously, helping students to find safe spaces for study for in-person and online classes helps to avoid congregating in hallways.

To this end, we’ve crated the campus “map” website of virtual learning and study spaces for students. It’s is now live.Recognizing that many students will need access to virtual learning spaces for their online classes and other assignments, we’ve created a website where students can search by building and day/time for classroom spaces with Wi-Fi access. The link for this website is on the Student Affairs website and also in the text of this message for you.

You might be also wondering what social life will look like on campus and how you’ll interact with friends. We are working on safe programming for students in Residence Life and the Center for Engagement and Inclusion. Staff have prepared options to highlight what you CAN DO and not just what you CAN’T do.

Further, the State of Wisconsin has launched an online tool to help you make decisions about attending gatherings. Student Affairs has linked this from our website, and we encourage you to use it and make wise decisions. It’s a local wisconsin.gov website.

You also might be wondering about how much others in our community will adhere to our new safety protocols. It’s important not only for each of us to take responsibility ourselves, but it is also important we hold each other accountable. If you witness a member of the university community failing to uphold the standards laid out in the community pledge, there is an online reporting mechanism to utilize, and you can find a link to that on the student affairs website as well.

In these stressful times, it could lead to sow division, it’s important we extend and receive grace to and from each other. This is extremely important. Civility is an expectation we hold for how we treat each other, this year and every year moving forward.

Students: know that faculty and staff here care for you. We want the best for you, and will work with you to help you meet your educational goals in this unusual year. Let’s approach this academic year with courageous hearts, not with fearful hearts. We need your creativity, your positivity, your belief in a future that only you can create.

So please:

  • Steer clear of conditions that can increase the spread of the virus. No large parties. Responsible gatherings.
  • Be safe and responsible as you socialize. Gather in masked groups of 4-6, rather than 100.
  • Be aware and attentive to changes in your physical and mental health.
  • Be honest about how you feel when you use COVID Cheq every morning before venturing out on campus.
  • Be responsible and report ill health to university health officials in our clinic in a timely manner, for your safety and ours.
  • Be diligent and adhere to medical directives if your find yourself in isolation or quarantine.
  • Stay informed of the latest guidance by visiting the university’s COVID-19 website.
  • And above all, ask for help when you need it. We’re here for you.

At Marquette, we are forming  you in our Catholic, Jesuit tradition to encounter the world as contemplatives in action, living with one foot raised like St. Ignatius, ready to meet the complexities of this world — and we are here to help you towards that end. We believe in you, Marquette. You CAN navigate this pandemic.

WE make the difference. Together.

Protective blessings for a successful academic year! God Bless.

Dr. Xavier A. Cole
Vice President for Student Affairs