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Dear Canisius Faculty and Staff,

After months of hard work and preparation, I am pleased to welcome you to the start of the 2020 fall semester. While this is always a very special time of the year when we watch the campus come alive with the return of our students, this year looks and feels quite different after several very lonely months here on the campus.  The pandemic necessitates we introduce a variety of new protocols for student life, academics and our general operations.  Please visit our Return to Campus webpage to learn more about the college’s restart plans.

This fall we are delighted to welcome approximately 420 freshmen and 85 transfer students.  Move-in day and new student orientation events that began last week, with all of our Covid-19 safety measures in place and virtual events for students and families, were filled with Canisius spirit.  Please join me in welcoming our newest students and doing everything possible to ease their transition and engage them in Canisius life.

I acknowledge the trepidation and anxiety we may feel as we try to resume our routines for the fall.  Families with school-age children are navigating a new set of challenges, health and safety concerns are mounting as we watch cases at various universities across the country erupt, and our eyes are fixed on the region’s infection rates.  It has been extraordinarily challenging to balance the interests of our students who prefer an on-campus, face-to-face instructional experience with the health and safety requirements we all expect.  I want to thank everyone for their tireless work and sacrifice to get us to this point.  Now more than ever, it is critical that we do our best to preserve our progress by staying vigilant, following the guidelines, and protecting the health and safety of our community.

The stakes were raised just this past Saturday as Governor Governor Cuomo issued a new directive to colleges and universities in New York State:  If we develop an infection rate for Covid-19 of 5% of the total campus population OR if we report 100 positive Covid-19 tests, whichever is less in a 14 day period, we must pivot to completely remote learning for two weeks.  One hundred positive tests, even in a smaller community like Canisius, is not many, so we need to all work together to keep the infections down.

The Griff Pledge for Campus Health and Safety outlines the commitment each of us – students, faculty and staff – are expected to make to help reduce risks to health and safety and do our part to stay together on campus.  Please take a moment to read and acknowledge the Griff Pledge.  The choices we make in our daily lives can directly affect the well-being of our families, friends and colleagues, and will make all the difference in our ability to carry out a successful fall semester.

This semester’s attention also include our efforts to promote a more diverse and inclusive Canisius community. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others have ignited protests and long-needed, honest conversations about the place of Black Americans in our country.  As a Jesuit college, we are compelled to engage our campus community in these challenging questions.  We need to determine how we will respond to systems, structures, and attitudes that sustain racism.  I hope that there will be many opportunities for these important conversations – and more importantly, concrete actions – throughout the semester. 

Without question, we have some difficult work ahead of us, and I look forward to sharing important information about the state of the college with you at my annual President’s Convocation. Due to Covid-19 health and safety precautions, this will be a taped event and available online this fall.  Beyond my Convocation address, the vice presidents and I will continue to provide updates regarding the status of strategic priorities, health and safety information, and other operational items through virtual town halls. 

I wish you all the very best as we embark on this new semester. Let the observance of the college’s  Sesquicentennial cause us to renew the promise of our mission, to commit ourselves to the search for God and for truth, and to pursue quality and excellence in all that we do.

With my prayers and best wishes for a successful term,

John J. Hurley