Our common globe has been enveloped by a health crisis not seen for 100 years. The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting every corner of world, every point of the compass, and almost every dimension of life. Yet we do not need to face this crisis alone. Precisely because CUAC spans the continents, we can learn from each other’s experience and reflection. We can draw upon the collective wisdom we hold as a united Anglican community committed to the very best education. In our first online seminar we learnt from outside experts; now we give space to our own voices.
Our panellists will be:
Lilian Jaspar, Principal, Women’s Christian University, Chennai, India
Reuben E. Brigety II, Vice Chancellor, The University of the South, Sewanee, USA
Renta Nishihara, Dean of College, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan
Eunice Simmons, Vice Chancellor, University of Chester, UK
Herman B. Browne, Principal, Cuttington University, Suacoco & Monrovia, Liberia
Damian X. Powell, Principal, Janet Clarke Hall, Melbourne, Australia
Moderator: Jeremy T. Law, Dean of Chapel, Canterbury Christchurch University, UK
How COVID Is Changing Our CUAC Campuses
Like other higher-ed institutions across the globe, CUAC members faced three choices last month as a new term began: teach totally online, hold classes as usual, or experiment with a “blended” or “hybrid” approach. Here’s a brief survey of how six of them dealt with the urgent need to protect lives while pursuing their educational mission
Kenyon College, Gambier, OH (USA)
The Revd Rachel Kessler, Kenyon’s Episcopal Chaplain, says the 1,800-student college “half-opened” with first and second year and international students on campus, and upperclass students studying from home on line. Thanks to multiple rounds of testing, there’s been only one COVID case to date. Faculty were given the option to teach in the way they felt most comfortable. Those who teach in person are finding it harder to learn names and encourage class discussion when everyone is in masks, but “everyone seems to be bearing up well.” She is very proud that, thanks to careful planning, the college has not lost a single job. It’s all an exhausting experience, but a mutually supportive one – “a reminder of the Christian values in our DNA.”
Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln (UK)
The Revd Canon Prof Peter Neil, the Vice Chancellor, reports that the campus is open for students who are being taught on a “blended” learning approach as per government guidelines. “All students are receiving some face-to-face teaching with tutors and are spending the rest of the time either on-line in sessions or conducting their own research. Students who feel uneasy about attending face to face sessions can partake in the classes via lecture-capture or on-line access to the classes. We are trying to be as flexible as possible.”
The campus has been made as COVID-secure as possible with one-way systems, sanitizers, safe distances in all classroom areas, and the requirement for everyone to wear face coverings in indoor spaces, including classrooms. Staffing is on a rota basis in order to avoid too many people on site at any one time. “At the time of writing we have no student positive cases although some are isolating for precautionary reasons.”
He adds: “Students need to have some face to face contact with tutors but also with their peers. The focus on mental health difficulties emerging during lockdown highlights the importance of social contact for reasons of sanity if nothing else.”
Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY (USA)
The Revd Nita Byrd, Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Engagement, says almost all students returned to campus, although some faculty opted to teach remotely. Random testing of about 300 students takes place weekly, and some students quarantined last month are now back in class. “The protocols are working, but we don’t allow ourselves a false sense of security.” Socially distanced outdoor activities like her pasta nights and Bible study groups help boost student morale, as do the live concerts from campus streaming on the H&WS website. Despite media stereotypes of “students as wild cards who just don’t care,” she is impressed by their maturity and their awareness that “this is a very serious situation.” More first-year students than usual are showing up at chapel services.
Canterbury Christ Church (UK)
The Revd Dr Jeremy Law, Dean of Chapel, reports: “Like other British universities, entry in national ‘Lockdown’ on March 23 meant the closure of our campuses and the immediate transference of teaching and assessment online. Only security and a few other essential staff remained. I think we surprised ourselves by how quickly we were able to adapt and how resilient we were able to be. What before had seemed an impossible challenge – a wholly online university – became in a matter of days a living reality.
“In mid-September we welcomed students back to a blended model of education: lectures are essentially online; some seminars, tutorials and practical classes are in person. Mask wearing, hand sanitising, social distancing, one-way systems, and rooms with now much reduced capacity make our campuses at once familiar and yet alien. However, after living online for months, after life in the flat two dimensions of the screen, the three-dimensional immersive experience of physical presence is quite thrilling. But that excitement has to be tempered with due caution.”
Trinity College Theological School, Melbourne (AU)
The Dean, the Revd Canon Dr Robert Derrenbacker, reports: “The pandemic has meant moving all working, learning, and teaching to an online format. While we have had good experience with online learning before, this has tested our ability to foster a meaningful learning community among our staff and students. We have had to pivot in ways we’ve never imagined, becoming more agile and flexible as a result. But this crisis has also meant drawing on the rich experiences and resources of networks like CUAC, causing us to think strategically about what we may do differently as an educational institution when we begin to experience a new ‘COVID-normal.'
“Melbourne is slowly emerging from its lockdown with envious success – just five new cases yesterday in all of Victoria.”
Madras Christian College, Chennai (India)
Dr Paul Wilson, principal, reports that the disruption began in June when one family on campus got infected and they had to close the college, leading to others' infections, including at one point himself, requiring rest and medication. That has passed and on August 3 they began e-learning classes. They are currently in admissions and internal assessments, with all programs going online. Each day begins at 8:15 with a chapel service streamed from historic Anderson Hall. The pandemic has slowed down India's economy, with tuition capped at 40% of regular fees. Fortunately they have been able to pay faculty salaries at 100%. While students and faculty aren't on campus, Dr. Wilson continues working with administration and department heads.
Sewanee Cuts Its Ties To 'Lost Cause' Ideology
Sewanee – the Oxbridge-like University of the South – in the beautiful foothills of eastern Tennessee has long been associated with an “Old South” heritage that celebrated Confederate generals and down-played the central role of slavery in causing the American Civil War of 1861-65. As of Sept 8, however, the Board of Regents of the University (comprising an undergraduate college and a theological seminary) has denounced in strong language “its past veneration of the Confederacy” and called for “an urgent process of institutional reckoning.”
Sewanee’s new Vice Chancellor and President Reuben Brigety II has launched an evaluation of the monuments, buildings, and place names on campus that link the institution to “Lost Cause” mythology and intends “to make Sewanee a model of diversity, of inclusion, and of loving spirit in an America that rejects prejudice.” His plans build upon initiatives begun by his predecessor, Vice Chancellor and President Emeritus John McCardell, including a “race and reconciliation” study center and growing sensitivity to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“Lost Cause” ideology took shape in the years immediately following the white South’s defeat in the Civil War and gained momentum amid the intensified racism of the years 1876-1930. The war was portrayed as a heroic struggle over “states’ rights” in which honorable people had made tremendous sacrifices to defend “the Southern Way of Life.” Southern generals like Robert E. Lee were “canonized”; the “Lost Cause” sometimes had the air of a religious cult.
Sewanee – a founding member of CUAC and of the Association of Episcopal Colleges – was established in 1857, but the war delayed its opening until 1868.
Congratulations on the 40th Anniversary of an Episcopal University of Latinos for Latinos!
Forty years ago, 7 October 1980, St. Augustine College in Chicago, Illinois opened fulfilling the dream of psychologist Father Carlos A. Plazas, Ph.D. along with Dr. Bruno Bondavelli, for dual language learning for Hispanic young people. Collaborating with the Diocese of Chicago, building on the decade of work by the Board of Directors of Spanish Episcopal Services, the college secured the former Essanay Studio premises of Charlie Chaplin fame for this historic founding that has changed the lives of generations of Latino students and their families.
CUAC Chaplains Compare Notes On Ministry in the Time of COVID
CUAC Chaplains from around the globe met virtually in September to discuss how the academic year looks different this fall due to COVID precautions. The Revd Nita Byrd (Hobart & William Smith Colleges) reports:
Many chaplains noted the difficulty engaging students when we expect them to accept an invite to join a virtual conversation. We realize that forming a community of spiritual and social support is incarnational and involves our entire bodies, something that is missing online. The Rev. Rachel Kessler, chaplain at Kenyon College, had a wonderful analogy to birds flying south for the winter. When birds fly they do not necessarily follow a centralized plan. Instead birds align themselves with the bird next to them and somehow navigate to their destination. The life of individuals involved in ministry is somewhat like the birds in flight. We depend on each other for navigation, discernment, support, and celebration to determine our lives together.
Some ministries have taken advantage of early gatherings during the warm weather outside. This has given some momentum to gatherings at Hobart and William Smith Colleges as students gather for vigils and social events while keeping social distancing.
At Lady Doak College in Madurai, India, the Rev. Jessie Charles noted the increased need to support students as classes continue online, particularly for first-year students who are also adjusting to college for the first time. At many of our Anglican colleges and universities, chaplains fill a variety of roles as changing needs present new challenges.
Photo: Mentored by the Revd Nita Byrd, students at Hobart & William Smith College in upstate New York held a vigil for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court renowned for her fight for gender equality. The event was co-sponsored with the Colleges' Jewish Chaplaincy.
News from Around the CUAC World
On July 15, Dr Irving Pressley McPhail took office as the 12th president of St Augustine’s University, a 750-student Historically Black College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Dr McPhail is founder and chief strategy officer at the McPhail Group. A senior executive in higher education, urban public-school administration, and the nonprofit sector, he was previously the sixth president and CEO at the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, founding chancellor at the Community College of Baltimore County, president of St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, and president of Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. He also served as university provost at Pace University in New York, vice president and dean of academic affairs at Delaware State University, and chief operating officer at the Baltimore City Public Schools. Raised in Harlem, Dr McPhail was educated in New York City public schools and is a graduate of the renowned Stuyvesant High School. He earned a BA in rural sociology at Cornell University and an MA in reading at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He earned his doctorate in reading/language arts at the University of Pennsylvania.
In London, Dr R. David Muir, a political scientist and theologian, has become Head of Whitelands College, a division of the University of Roehampton. He succeeds the Revd Dr Mark Garner, who retired and is now living in Australia.
Previously, Dr Muir had been Senior Lecturer in Public Theology and Community Engagement at Whitelands. He is a former director of the UK Evangelical Alliance and a Deputy Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority (London), where he chaired the Virdi Inquiry, which confirmed that a 30-year veteran policeman of South Asian origin had been discriminated against due to his race.
Dr Muir’s research interests include post-war British Black History, Pentecostalism, social action, liberation theology, and the role of faith in public discourse. His PhD is from London University.
Dr MasatsuguTsuji is the new president of Kobe International University in Japan. His 1,700-student university has global partnerships in 13 countries, with 30 universities. The new president is an economist with a PhD from Stanford University and more than 200 publications. His current research is in the economic evaluation of telemedicine, on which he consults for the Japanese Government, and on such subjects as the use of artificial intelligence in medicine and the growth of telecommunications.
In March, Dr Yohana Petro Msanjila became the new Vice Chancellor of St John’s University of Tanzania. The 4,500-student university was established in 2007 in Dodoma by the Anglican Church of Tanzania. He is an authority on the introduction of Kiswahili at independence by Tanzania's founding father, Julius Nyererere, who used the indigenous language to unite the 150 tribes and languages into a nation. He has studied the pedagogic problems related to the use of Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in primary education, which is in Kiswahili, while secondary and tertiary education is in English, using a theory of language as a medium of communication.
On July 31, Dr Ben Hung-Pin Huang became the ninth President of St John's University, Taiwan. He has been a professor in National Taiwan University's Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering. He succeeds Dr Herchang Ay, who after four years in the post returned to his professorship at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences.
A Ph.D. graduate of the University of Iowa, the new President is an expert in the fields of forestry, soil and water conservation, hydraulics, environmental protection, and disaster prevention.
Pictured here (left), with outgoing President Ay (right), and the Rt Revd Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang (center), who is Board Chair and Bishop of Taiwan.
From the General Secretary’s Desk (At Home)
On March 17, as the Coronavirus was spreading wildly here in New York, spooked by a commute on a largely deserted subway, I collected a parcel of files from CUAC’s midtown office to transition to sheltering at home, where I have been ever since.
The initial sensations of sheltering were of depravation, as we discovered how much we had to give-up, from in-person meetings, meals with friends, Sundays at church and going to concerts and the opera. Determined to cope, we kept shifting online to talk to friends, celebrate birthdays, including my own, attend church services and everything else, which changed Zooming from being something exotic to a constant, seemingly endless routine.
In addition to missing the conviviality of our offices at the Episcopal Church Center, working from home has meant constantly reaching for things I didn’t bring. CUAC has actually been connecting through Zoom for over eight years now from our home study, where I hold most of our early morning meetings to accommodate our global time zones. But we had only scratched the surface.
When CUAC took the plunge with an Online Seminar in lieu of the Triennial on July 1, our speaker Karen O’Donnell of Salisbury College challenged the idea that online experiences are flattening and less human: “I think there are opportunities to be incarnational in the digital spaces,” she said, conceding that “it requires an awful lot out of us” to do so. We have been learning that online events have the opportunity of reaching more people and allow for gatherings in chapters, for instance, that travel costs would have made impossible.
This new normal in our high impact activities, however -- such as my wife Mary Chilton’s teaching her theology classes online or my managing network relations -- is akin to working with one hand tied behind your back. Fortunately, humankind is remarkably adaptable by nature for survival and adjusting to new circumstances can still bring breakthroughs. At the end of a long day in the study, we now cherish long walks in a couple of nearby parks we have gotten to know well, when on a good day we can log many precious steps.
My greatest disappointment came in canceling the Triennial, which for me is an oasis of community that brings CUAC alive. Sorely missing this connection, I took on sending personal emails to each delegate with the news and arranging for returning their fees. Then when we couldn’t mail the subscription notices so crucial to our existence, again I sent individual e-mails, this time to members. While taking far more time than I could have imagined, I found myself unexpectedly focusing on each member as I recalled their situation and the ties we have shared, which came with the bonus of frequently hearing back.
Still, while online links have the potential of being incarnational, there is a unique resonance and depth to in person gatherings. In a sense, living into the pandemic reminds me of indoor swimming in the winter. When first jumping in it is so cold, but before too long you start to warm up. While we can’t predict how long these pandemic responses will be required, we can still long for swimming outdoors again and perhaps even in the ocean.
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
In Search of Summers Past
On the small New England island on which I spent a month this fall, there are any number of small houses designed to handle wet bathing suits, toddlers in full cry, smelly things dragged up from the beach, and late-night games of Scrabble. For three, sometimes four generations, the same families have returned summer after summer to those same cottages, despite the ravages of hurricanes and the unreliability of the Internet. Nothing seems to change. They like it that way. The rag rug is still in the same place Grandmother put it. There will always be blueberry cake for tea.
My favorite example of this fierce commitment to summers past – nostalgia isn’t even the word for it – is the late husband of a friend and fellow parishioner who maybe 40 years ago Scotch-taped a deer tick to the bathroom mirror. He wanted to teach his children how to identify this dangerous local pest, the vector for Lyme disease. Each summer now, the children of his children return – and the first question they ask is: “Is the deer tick still on the mirror”?
Of course it is.
In an unstable world we cling to such things, and never more so than in the past nine months, when nothing seemed untouched by dramatic change and no one really knew what would come next. And we still don’t. Nowhere has this been more evident than in our colleges and universities. They are institutions that in many essentials – residential students, crowded lecture halls, communal dining -- have not changed much since a group of scholars in the 12th century formed the University of Paris, after decades of teaching in the cloisters of Notre Dame. The Christian origins of the idea – and ideals -- of higher education are too little acknowledged, and their international impact taken for granted.
These institutions – including their Anglican/Episcopalian offspring – are in serious crisis right now. In this issue, we’ve tried to show you how a small sample of them are meeting the challenge. In the words of Kenyon College’s Rachel Kessler, “everyone wants to make this thing work.”
Compass Points is published by GENERAL SECRETARY: The Revd Canon James G. Callaway, D.D. PUBLISHER: Julia DeLashmutt EDITOR: Charles C. Calhoun