Amid a pandemic, racial reckoning, and catastrophic wildfires, UO students persevered, and faculty and staff helped take on the challenge of COVID-19
On the first day of 2020, the Oregon Ducks were playing football in the glorious afternoon sunshine in Pasadena, Calif., beating the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl to cap off a 12-2 season in what seemed an auspicious start to the new year.
Half a world away, a novel coronavirus had quietly begun its deadly spread and would soon become a pandemic that has killed some 1.5 million around the globe and upended nearly every facet of daily life. As the year ends, the virus continues its lethal march, even as the first Americans began getting vaccinated.
For a university, a place where tens of thousands of students are accustomed to sleeping, eating, studying and playing in close quarters, the virus known as COVID-19 would bring about unprecedented upheaval.
The racial reckoning that gripped the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd spurred activism on the UO campus in a demand that Black Lives Matter. A contentious election and cataclysmic wildfires intensified the anxiety and capped a year that defied comparison.
Along the way, the UO community came together, proving with grit and determination to persevere and contribute. We sent another newly minted class of graduates out into the world. Our scientists developed COVID-19 testing facilities capable of quickly processing thousands of tests per week and continued to help us understand how the pandemic was affecting the world. We celebrated the opening of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, a ground-breaking facility dedicated to the mission of quickly turning scientific discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation, and the world.
But the pandemic set the agenda for 2020. It brought an abrupt end to winter term, halting winter sports and causing a sudden, unsatisfying end to seasons. It was a particularly bitter pill for Oregon women’s basketball and their fans: The Ducks were a dominant squad on the cusp of a national title run, led by guard Sabrina Ionescu, a record-smashing force of nature who became the most celebrated college player in the country.
Spring term took place on a mostly empty campus, as students and faculty adjusted to remote learning. For the first time, commencement, the culminating celebration of the academic year, was a virtual affair, taking place on our screens instead of inside a raucous Matthew Knight Arena.
In June, in the wake of nationwide demonstrations protesting police brutality and demanding racial justice, the UO Board of Trustees decided to strip Matthew Deady’s name from the first building on campus because of his racist views, a long-simmering issue. Deady, a federal judge, was president of the state of Oregon’s constitutional convention, which excluded blacks from the state, and the first president of the UO’s Board of Regents.
Also in June, after a teach-in at Deady Hall, protestors marching through campus toppled two iconic pioneer statues in the middle of campus that had been criticized for representing historic white oppression and genocide of native peoples in Oregon.
As fall term was set to begin in late September, ferocious wildfires tore through Oregon and much of the West, destroying scores of buildings, displacing hundreds of thousands and killing dozens. While Eugene was never in peril, a pall of choking smoke spread like a blanket over our communities for days on end.
As this disaster was unfolding, students moved into residence halls and classes began, albeit mostly remote. Students and faculty adjusted to the new abnormal, connecting via social media and video conferencing.
Pac-12 football was delayed, canceled, then revived, and as of this writing, a truncated, COVID-marred season was staggering through its final weeks.
Our scientists and researchers came to the fore, ramping up testing and making it available for free to the community at large. Faculty members and health leaders established the Corona Corps, a cadre of students who conducted contact tracing to help slow the spread of the virus in our community. Our students persisted, learning new ways to learn and connect.
This was our pandemic year. As we look ahead to 2021, there are positive signs: Vaccines developed in record time have begun to be administered as the year comes to a close. While the virus isn’t going away, 2020 will soon be in the rear-view mirror, and there is hope we’ll see a return to some semblance of normalcy in the new year.
OUR PANDEMIC YEAR
LIFE OF STUDENTS
BATTLING THE VIRUS
THE VIRTUAL LIFE
COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER
WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS