President Schill and the Road Now Taken

I have used many words recently to describe the state of the world today: unprecedented, uncertain, and extraordinary. As our university, community, nation, and world grapple with the spread of the coronavirus, it is clear that we are on an unfamiliar road—one that requires the University of Oregon to creatively rethink, at least temporarily, how we teach our students and conduct research to help solve the urgent challenges of today. It is a difficult journey, but one that we are taking together in ways that fill me with hope and pride.

Our spring term classes are being held remotely—instead of classrooms, faculty members and students are connecting through laptops, phones, and other means. Most campus operations are suspended, with the bulk of our employees and faculty members working from their kitchen tables, home offices, or other makeshift locations to comply with a stay-at-home order from the governor. We are working to come up with creative ways to celebrate commencement, which unfortunately won’t be held in person. And, a familiar sight to anyone in town, the extraordinary reconstructed Hayward Field nears completion for sporting events that won’t occur or are delayed by a year.

While in-person alumni events and gatherings have been canceled or postponed, you can look for them to take place via Zoom, BlueJeans, Microsoft Teams, or on your phone, connecting you with Ducks the world over without leaving home. Foremost on our minds is care for our students and the UO community. At the heart of every action we take is a desire to protect the health and well-being of our campus community, while ensuring that our students keep their educations on track. We have an experienced team of safety, emergency, and health experts deployed to prepare, plan, and respond to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. I am grateful for the resilience of our campus and the greater campus community.

Human beings have survived two millennia of catastrophes. Even in the lifetime of this magazine, we have withstood the Spanish flu, two world wars, the Depression, 9/11, and more. The stories in this edition of Oregon Quarterly, while written just prior to the rise of the crisis, reflect the resilience, curiosity, and determination that are part of how we, as a university and society, persist.

In these extraordinary times when the uncommon terms “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” are spoken the world over, our faculty members are conducting research and offering advice, solutions, and expertise on the disease, to understand its effect on us, our well-being, and society.

Call their efforts a roadmap, perhaps. A way for us to get oriented to this new reality. It’s a reminder, too, that we are not on this adventure alone—we are traveling down this unfamiliar road together and, together, we will persevere and ultimately flourish.

—Michael H. Schill, President and Professor of Law