In economics and the calculus behind it, we study the process by which people and firms make decisions, subject to constraints. These constraints sometimes change, causing a change in the status quo and forcing the decision makers to choose different products to purchase or produce or to choose different courses of action. I thought of this concept lately as I returned to our campus as it attempts to recover from the tornado that struck it a few weeks ago. While the campus is now open again, it is a very different place than what we remember from the days before July 20
The first thing one realizes as they return to campus is that the campus has a surreal look to it. There is a huge chunk of wall taken out of what used to be our gym, and the inside is clearly visible from the parking lot. Trees are bent at their roots, and a small wooded area that used to provide access to local wildlife is now inaccessible. Wooden doors take the place of what used to be glass entranceways, and a section of the parking lot is fenced off from traffic. While we used to be able to transverse the entire campus by car, we are now confined to either the North or the South of the campus, depending on which driveway one uses to enter. The last I heard is that it will be months before things get back to anything resembling normal.
The loss of the use of the gym is particularly difficult because of our recent acceptance into the Division II of the NCAA. In order to allow our athletes to practice, many will have to practice in gyms at neighboring schools in the area. This solution leads to new difficulties, as athletes now must take into account travel time to and from area gyms as they schedule and take their classes. Indeed, when I heard that some students would be practicing at a gym close to where I live, I joked that maybe we could
offer class at my own house, as the class is very small and many of them would be in the town already. Luckily, my dean convinced me that this was a bad idea, and we found another time to meet instead.
Despite the sense of overwhelming loss that has taken over the campus, there are glimpses of hope. A series of beautiful black and white photographs of the damage was posted on our website, along with words of inspiration. When I first saw it and read the words, I admit that I was moved to tears.
It begins with a picture of the broken wall of the gym, with bricks crumbling on all sides and an open space that allows one to see basketball hoops and a score board, with the words printed below, “Our community was not built of bricks.”
The next photograph shows an ancient tree toppled on its side, with a collection of roots and dirt standing high on the side of the flattened tree. It is accompanied by the words “It was not built of wood.”
This is followed by a picture of broken window panes on what used to be a skylight in our student center atrium. One can still see the metal frame of the windows, but those windows are now covered with a spider web of cracks. Below it read the words “Or glass or steel.”
The final picture shows our president, Sister Diana Stano, surrounded by a group of students, many in Ursuline College apparel, and all looking overwhelmed. Below that photo are the words “Our community was - and is - built of love.” Sometimes, it takes difficult times like this that remind us what we are all about.
Much of the debris has been cleared, and I am back in my office. Soon, faculty and staff will be gathering here to prepare for the school year, and not long after that, the students will return to campus. I am sure that many will be shocked to see what happened to our beautiful campus while they were gone. There is, however, great hope. In the end, we are reminded, as we look at the devastation, that our college was built by a group of Sisters who profess a faith whose central tenet is Resurrection.