Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,
The term ‘normal’ is loaded. Some years ago, my research group explored this as applied to neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders, that our studies address. We quickly decided that ‘normal’ should be removed from our vocabulary, since it implied ‘correct’ or ‘best’ and ‘abnormal’ implied something opposite. In fact, we were part of a wave of understanding, and terminology has become ‘affected’ and ‘unaffected’ as pertain to most disorders. These more recent terms acknowledge differences between people, that although many of us are affected by some mental or physical challenge, none of us is ‘abnormal’, and I am deeply glad that term has dissipated.
‘Normal’ cannot describe this new academic year either, as we cautiously learn to live with COVID. At Convocation on Monday, our new undergraduates, masked and vaccinated, were thrilled to join Northeastern in person, totally excited to be Huskies. President Aoun promised our students a ‘full experience’, which is a brilliant way to put it. On Thursday, we regrouped to hood our PhD candidates – the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021, becoming one of the few universities to honor doctoral graduates in person. Northeastern has been a paradigm for how to keep the full experience going in the face of a global disaster, and each member of our community should be truly proud to have contributed to this effort.
The incoming Class of 2025 has lived through the horror of COVID, but most were not born for the horror of 9.11.2001. That was a tragedy of lives abruptly lost to a terrorist attack, including a wonderful Northeastern student, Candace Lee Williams. Those lost are never forgotten as we sadly observe the twentieth anniversary this week (information below).
COVID has changed us forever, and we aren’t going back to some pre-pandemic ‘normal’, a term that seems as incorrect here as when used to describe mental health. Rather, as the new academic year begins, the full experience in our College of Science includes useful changes tested this past year. Sixteen percent of our staff are now hybrid, a productive mix of on campus and remote work, coupled with condensed, smart new office space. As throughout the pandemic, our outstanding faculty will be teaching in person, but remote office hours can be more accessible and less intimidating for students. Meetings can work well in virtual or hybrid modes. Thank you to everyone for being ready to plunge into this new cycle, thank you for immersing in the full experience. We are essentially all vaccinated in the College of Science and at Northeastern, grateful to be tested each week, and used to wearing masks that deter transmission. We anticipate a great AY2021-22 – safe, successful, creative, kind and calm. One College, working together, promoting the good power of Science: each person’s contribution important and valued. Warmest wishes for an excellent year!
To our Jewish members, Shana Tovah, and best wishes for a meaningful High Holiday season.