An Extraordinary Effort
Letter from Dean Sive - December 18, 2020

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

Speaking of famous Huskies, Balto was a Siberian Husky, a sled dog who is immortalized by a statue in New York’s Central Park. The story is complicated, and a petition indicates that the statue should have depicted another Husky named Togo. But the point is one of hope: an extraordinary effort to bring diptheria antitoxin to Nome, Alaska in 1925, so stopping the outbreak of a terrible illness. Due to a blizzard, planes could not fly and the antitoxin was carried six hundred and seventy-four miles through driving snow and -20oF temperatures by dog sled teams. Balto (or maybe Togo) was the lead dog on the final leg of the dangerous trip.

The significance of this heroic and life-saving relief is clearer to us at the conclusion of 2020 than ever before. In the bleak face of continuing and pervasive COVID-19, we have hope from heroic efforts that have yielded two vaccines approved by the FDA. These are safe and effective, and we hope that all of our Northeastern community will be vaccinated sometime next semester. I have no further information in this regard, except to know that at Northeastern, we will be ready to store and distribute vaccines.

As members of the College of Science, we must be prepared and willing to acknowledge fears that many people, have of being vaccinated, including in our COS. There are a few things to communicate – that vaccines are awesome because they encourage your body to make its own medicine; that they do so by pretending to give you a tiny bit of the illness so your body can gear up to prevent the real one; and that vaccines are tested really carefully for safety. I would encourage great patience in discussing vaccination, or indeed, another useful tool we have now, mask-wearing. There is incontrovertible evidence that wearing a mask can bring COVID transmission down five-fold or more over being unmasked.

Even as we have hope from a vaccine, we know that we will have a complex semester ahead, and will need to continue every precaution, including testing, masking and distancing. In the meantime, we look forward to a well-deserved holiday break.

At the end of the semester, I want to thank you all once again, for an extraordinary effort. As we explored in our Community Meeting this week, through your work, we have done very well. You have carried forward the important work of promoting excellence in Science education, research and innovation, within a culture of respect and equity, that is the charge of our College. Congratulations, and let us move forward with ever greater aspiration and success!

This is our last Update until January 8, 2021. I hope you have a pleasant and peaceful break. It is richly deserved.

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University