Five roles that presidents, chancellors and other leaders should play to manage crises effectively (opinion)

A group of academics reflects on and defines the most successful approaches that presidents, chancellors and others can take to manage crises.

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College presidents ask many questions before speaking about issues like Donald Trump, but what does that say about their values?

College presidents issued statements both bland and blistering after last week's storming of the U.S. Capitol. Examining the thought process used to craft their words offers understanding into their true values.


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Annual conference adapted its schedule to help presidents respond to the violence at the U.S. Capitol.


A day later, college presidents continued to condemn violence at the Capitol

Statements from college presidents grew longer and more formal, in contrast to short initial reactions Wednesday.


Protests over police at Northwestern create conflict between students, president

Northwestern University students are in conflict with the administration over policing on campus. After protesters held an event at his house, the university president has said he is "disgusted" by them. Many are angered by his response.


Given higher ed's mission to promote democracy, its leaders should call out President Trump for attacking the integrity of our election (opinion)

I am encouraged that Duke University is marshaling our vast resources to mobilize students, faculty members, administrators and staff members to exercise their democratic rights this fall, by promoting and facilitating voter registration and voting in the coming November election.

We are helping students navigate the legal and logistical complexities of identifying the appropriate voting site for themselves, as well as educating them on some of the ethical issues raised by their decision of where to vote. We are opening an early voting site and are doing repeated messaging urging members of our community to make a plan to vote this fall. Even Coach K has spoken to the importance of voting.

We are doing these things because we who work in colleges and universities rightly understand that promoting democracy has long been a central part of our mission -- both because of our obligation to educate citizens and because liberal democracy is necessary for the free flow of ideas that is an essential condition for our institutions to thrive. Why then are we stopping short of forcefully calling out President Donald Trump for his clear, longtime and unequivocal attacks on the integrity of our elections, the most fundamental element of all liberal democracies?

Allowing this to continue without condemnation from our leaders is an abdication of our responsibility as institutions of higher education to promote and foster democratic participation. The time is now, and the stakes could not possibly be higher.

Last month, for the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American endorsed a presidential candidate, Joe Biden. It did so because the “evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people -- because he rejects evidence and science.” As I read that, what has bothered me for three years crystallized: it is time for leaders in higher education to rise to the challenge of defending liberal democracy, even if that means directly taking on Trump.

The Trump morass has had me flummoxed for years. I have been puzzled and disappointed that university presidents -- with some important exceptions -- have largely refrained from criticizing Trumpism as the threat to liberal democracy that it is. I know all the justifications for this: that we must, as institutions, be nonpartisan, that not much would be gained to call out the administration for its attacks on democratic norms and that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the administration would retaliate with new attacks on higher education -- including by jeopardizing important sources of funding for our work.

Be this as it may, we go into the fall elections with unprecedented challenges to the sanctity of our elections. Even without the background of a devastating global pandemic, Trump’s consistent misinformation about voter fraud and voting by mail would be an existential threat to our democracy. The story by this time is an old one. It started immediately after the 2016 elections when the then president-elect claimed, without any evidence, that he would have actually won the popular vote had it not been for “millions” of people voting illegally.

Administration attempts to undermine election security have continued unabated since that time. They have included everything from dismissing past and current attacks on our voting systems by foreign actors to a most recent call for residents here in my home state North Carolina to vote twice -- in other words, to commit a felony. In fact, the president is now repeatedly telling his supporters there are no legitimate circumstances under which he can lose in 2020. And since he has made every possible effort to delegitimize vote by mail (though he himself does so regularly), which will no doubt happen in record numbers because of COVID-19, he has clearly told us he is prepared to not accept the results of this election.

Former Harvard University president Derek Bok has thought carefully about when colleges and universities should speak out on major issues of the day. Despite his general aversion to doing so, Bok notes in Beyond the Ivory Tower, “We should not forget that the welfare of universities in the United States is ultimately dependent on the preservation of a free democratic society. If that form of society is in jeopardy, academic leaders cannot afford to draw their battle lines too closely.”

It is clear that the current circumstances meet Bok’s threshold for speaking out. Indeed, if the legitimate results of the November election are rejected and chaos ensues, it will be worth asking ourselves: What did we did do (or fail to do) with the privileged perch we inhabit at elite institutions like Duke if we do not call out this threat to democracy? And what will we tell our grandchildren when they ask whether we fought for liberal democracy itself when it came under assault?

Our leaders must speak out now -- repeatedly, clearly and without reservation to preserve the free and fair elections that are a necessary condition of liberal democracy. We must do so both for the sake of our democracy and for our integrity as civic institutions. Duke and other higher education institutions must continue their important efforts to facilitate voter registration and voting from now until Election Day. But this is not enough to fulfill our democratic mission. We must couple these efforts on voting with broader efforts to educate our students and broader publics about the assault on the integrity of our elections. This is not taking a stand on policy disputes, but instead is, as William A. Galston rightly notes, responding to what must be seen a “regime-level threat.”

Not only do we run the risk of being left behind as other unlikely defenders of democracy -- such as the military and an increasing number of Republicans -- rise up to defend our elections, we also risk losing the liberal democratic underpinnings that make our work possible.

What are we waiting for?

Eric Mlyn is a distinguished faculty fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and a lecturer at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

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Too many presidents are focusing on tactics rather than strategy during this challenging time (opinion)

It is common knowledge that many colleges and universities face growing and increasingly complex financial challenges. Many have responded by incrementally cutting expenses and adding new revenue streams. But COVID-19 has rendered such incrementalism insufficient for those countless institutions -- public and private, large and small -- that might suffer severe cutbacks or even be forced to close if the pandemic persists through the first semester, the coming academic year or beyond.

Coping with these trying circumstances is more difficult than ever, given that past performance can no longer predict what may happen going forward in crucial areas like admissions and retention. As one president told me, “I’m used to making important decisions with the best information I have, knowing it’s still only partial information, but I’m now making daily decisions based on no information at all.”

In the last weeks, I’ve had at least 20 conversations with deeply dispirited college presidents from various sectors of higher education who have told me confidentially that they have never been so exhausted. (In the interest of that confidentiality, I’m not naming them.) They’ve all struggled with whether their institutions should resume face-to-face education, move totally to remote teaching or offer some hybrid approach. In making those decisions, they’ve sought to make their campuses both safe and financially sustainable, although, in all honesty, those goals may conflict with one another.

Determining how to approach the fall semester did not, of course, end the continuing need to make other equally difficult decisions.

For example, as many people anticipated, not all students are adhering to safety practices. As one friend put it, if 18- to 22-year-old students are confronted with choosing between their college’s honor code and their hormones, hormones are often going to win. And indeed, a number of institutions that welcomed students back to campus, confronted with daunting numbers of positive cases, have abruptly pivoted either temporarily or in an ongoing way to remote learning.

Campuses are contending with other pressures. Faculty and staff members fearing exposure to the virus seek to work remotely. Families are worried and complaining on social media that safety practices on campuses are insufficient. And some local residents have protested the return of students and prompted new city ordinances requiring masks and social distancing.

Many campuses embracing e-learning are now struggling with student demands for reduced tuition and fees as well as financial relief for students who had leased off-campus housing expecting they would be taking in-person classes. The counterargument that remote education is costlier than face-to-face education is not persuasive to students enrolled at residential campuses who believe that tuition dollars provide for a rich collegiate experience, not just classroom learning.

Many of the presidents with whom I talked were dispirited that what they had previously thought were healthy relationships with their faculty colleagues have become fraught with conflict. Some attributed the contentiousness to the faculty’s dismay in learning that, although they have primary responsibility for academic matters, the trustees have ultimate legal authority. Many faculty have been equally upset to learn that, in times of financial exigency, boards aren’t required to adhere to the processes outlined in faculty handbooks. The result: some faculty members are now attacking the legality of some leadership decisions, while others are voting or threatening to vote no confidence in their presidents.

Two presidents who prided themselves on their collaboration with faculty were particularly distraught that their faculty colleagues had turned on them. When one became president more than a decade ago, the institution was on the brink of closure. Since then, he’s worked closely with the faculty to create and practice shared governance. He’s spent a great deal of time with students. In recent years, this university’s situation improved dramatically, as it obtained healthy enrollments, annual surpluses, an enhanced reputation and a transformed physical campus. But because the institution has depended on robust numbers of international students, indicators are that enrollment will drop significantly this fall. To cover the anticipated multimillion-dollar deficit, the institution has suspended retirement contributions and frozen all hiring. The president explained his stress this way: because of these recent actions, seemingly overnight, he is no longer viewed as the institutional savior but as a villain.

The second president, too, has worked collaboratively with the faculty for her eight years, also emphasizing shared governance in the strategic planning process and involving faculty, staff and students in shaping the institution’s budget. She has routinely included faculty members in trustee retreats. She has raised lots of money for faculty positions and programs. Yet despite recently signing a new multiyear contract, she plans to make this year her last. Her motivation for leaving: a portion of the faculty is vilifying her in the local press and on social media for various COVID-related decisions. She is especially stung that even though no tenured and tenure-track faculty have been laid off, not one of those who once praised her has come to her defense. Instead, many have signed a public letter denouncing her as incompetent.

All this said, I should also add that some presidents had nothing but praise for their faculty and staff colleagues, saying that the COVID crisis had led to new levels of collaboration. And they admired the resilience and commitment of faculty, staff and students to adapting to the new realities.

Most of the presidents I’ve interacted with have also been grappling with another almost unprecedented challenge: how to deal with the emerging demands of various campus constituencies that their institution immediately provide significant support to eradicating systemic racism and other social inequities on their campuses -- as well as to improving the living conditions and opportunities of those beyond the campus.

Several presidents spoke of the letters along those lines that faculty members at universities as prestigious as the University of Chicago, Dartmouth College and Princeton University have signed. These presidents all applauded the goals of the protestors and those articulated in statements from members of their campus community. A number observed that their institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion had, in fact, led to significantly more diversified boards, senior leadership teams and student bodies. But they all said they were unsure how much they could actually do right now when they must cut rather than add new positions and new programs at their institutions.

Many were unsettled by being presented with demands in areas for which they had neither responsibility nor authority. Several noted that members of their campus community did not understand that presidents alone cannot redesign the curriculum (for which the faculty has primary responsibility), cannot unilaterally decide to spend money from the endowment (which is ultimately a board decision) and cannot simply by wishing it be so diversify their faculty.

Tactics, Not Strategy

What most concerned me in my conversations with these presidents, however -- and what I believe may be the most fundamental issue -- was how many top administrators and apparently their leadership teams and boards are focusing on tactics rather than strategy. Understandably, most presidents have been preoccupied with how their campus should function this fall. As a result, they unfortunately also have not in a deliberate way been thinking about the long-term, strategic implications of the tactical decisions they are now making. Rather, almost all have been engaging in some sort of magical thinking: if only we can get through the fall semester, things will somehow return to normal.

Although most presidents who reopened their campuses told me they would probably shut it down if they had a COVID outbreak, very few said they and their colleagues had analyzed in depth the financial and reputational implications of such a closure. I was also struck by how few campuses had engaged in tactical scenario planning beyond this fall semester, anticipating the possibility that COVID-19 will negatively impact the entire academic year and perhaps several more.

In addition, most presidents told me they simply didn’t have the bandwidth now to consider -- much less to consult robustly with other administrators, faculty, students and trustees about -- what it would mean for their institution truly to make, and not just give lip service to, a long-term commitment to racial equity and social justice. Those communicating mainly through video calls saw that as a further impediment.

So how should presidents begin to think strategically about the content and the pedagogy of the education their institutions will offer going forward? How should they lead their institutions to take concrete steps to eliminate systemic inequities on their campuses? How can they facilitate a commitment to combat racism not only on their campuses but also in their local communities and beyond? How can they manage all this as many face daily threats to their institution’s financial health?

My own answer to these sorts of questions is, that despite the tyranny of today’s immediate, this is a time when presidents, in collaboration with their campus community and their trustees, should lead a review of how they can fulfill their institutional mission post-COVID -- or even whether that mission needs to be revised.

Some of the presidents with whom I talked, along with several trustees and faculty members, have inspired the following suggestions for how at least some campus leaders may begin to think about the future. I want to emphasize that none of these approaches pertain to all institutions. I also want to make it clear that I have long advocated for the value of a residential college experience, recognizing that a great deal of important learning does take place outside the classroom, for example in conversations among students, faculty and staff and in an array of co-curricular activities. And so I am mindful that many of the following suggestions envision a very different model.

Move even more online. Several presidents confided that they had long wanted to advance online learning but could not overcome faculty resistance to the idea. The spring semester, they told me, has changed that dynamic. Many praised their faculty colleagues for their commitment to learning how to teach remote classes effectively and the pleasure many of them took in doing so. Those presidents believe that online teaching will help them address growing concerns about costs and encourage admissions, persistence, improved graduation rates and accelerated times to degrees. Several presidents believe that many students, even those who are residential because they want the college experience I describe above, will nevertheless prefer to take at least some classes online. To that end, they are redesigning all classrooms to enable every student going forward to take classes in person, online asynchronously or, in some instances, both.

New online options could also attract and retain students who might otherwise forgo college. In addition, traditional-age students could routinely take online courses during the summer, while on study abroad, during an internship or co-op experience, or even as an overload. Institutions might also consider extending the geographical online reach of programs of strength. International students who previously attended or would have attended American universities might now be amenable -- given travel restrictions and financial concerns -- to earning their degrees from these same institutions remotely.

Rethink goals in light of demographic realities, concerns about costs and shifting student interests. Some institutions with large commuter populations have been seeking to become more residential by building additional residence halls and creating a more vibrant campus life for residential students. Those institutions might now instead focus on ensuring that commuter students are appropriately supported. They might work with commuter students to determine what sort of activities are of interest to and value to them, recognizing that many commuters work full-time, have families and are older than the traditional residential student.

Reconceptualize and streamline institutional structures to better serve faculty and student realities. As David Rosowsky and Bridget Keegan recently suggested, institutions might want to abandon the departmental model and move either to divisional or new interdisciplinary structures. And even if campuses wish to preserve the departmental model, they might encourage and support faculty efforts to create new interdisciplinary programs. For example, the University of Puget Sound, where I served as president for 11 years, now offers a bioethics program that, according to the catalog, “encompasses work in the fields of biology, natural science, neuroscience, religion, philosophy, literature, sociology, psychology, politics, economics and business.”

Consolidate student support services. Many institutions have created one-stop shopping for students, co-locating such areas as financial aid, student accounts, the registrar, advising, the writing center and career services. Institutions should also consider partnering with other institutions to create a shared services model and/or to partner in terms of academic programs. Such efforts have in the past been elusive for many campuses because one or more of the potential partners have significant liabilities. Others have faltered because of a failure to agree on matters of governance, the location and even the name of a new partnership entity. But now is the moment to decide to function in ways that will better serve students and more effectively use human and financial resources.

Embrace the virtue of the out-of-doors. Colleges in temperate climates might emulate other institutions that have equipped outdoor spaces with Wi-Fi to create socially distanced classrooms and dining facilities as well as safer venues for students to study solely or in small groups. Post-COVID, such colleges should continue to offer such spaces.

Budget for mission, with long-term strategies in mind. In addition, as painful as it probably will be, institutions with huge COVID-related deficits should engage in zero-based budgeting in order to direct resources to areas that are mission-critical and adequately staff programs with high student enrollments. As one president described this shift in reallocating resources, the board is not changing the nature of the institution but rather seeking to fund the institution it has become.

Address systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and other biases. Perhaps most important, presidents, leadership teams and trustees must listen and be open to suggestions from members of the campus community, particularly those who have historically been subject to and harmed by such biases. Campuses should work to diversify the faculty and staff at all levels and to institute policies that ensure equity and inclusion. Areas in need of being addressed include hiring practices, tenure and promotion policies, the curriculum, and financial aid.

Administrators should ensure that faculty and staff members from underrepresented groups aren’t exploited by the expectation that they serve as diversity representatives on committees and as mentors/advisers to larger than normal numbers of students (a role that they should be applauded for fulfilling but that should also be recognized and rewarded accordingly). In addition, institutions will need to contend with their own histories if those histories are rife with bigotry.

While focusing on such strategic questions today may seem at first overwhelming, I urge presidents to begin to take steps toward doing so, first by listening and then by working together with colleagues, students and, as appropriate, trustees to identify, prioritize, develop and implement concrete actions. For such conversations to result in positive change, presidents must be clear from the outset about who ultimately will be responsible for making which decisions, what criteria they will use and what resources are available so that those who are offering ideas are informed from the beginning about what is possible.

Ultimately, despite all the challenges, presidents must, through collaboration and genuine communication, lead their faculty, administrators and students to focus on not only what their institution is today but also what it can and will be. They must put in place planning processes that allow their institution to pivot so as not only to survive but also thrive in ways that are true to their core values and goals. In other words, they must think beyond the current crises and, while responding to the needs of the moment, think and act strategically for the future.

Susan Resneck Pierce is president emerita of the University of Puget Sound, president of SRP Consulting and author of On Being Presidential and Governance Revisited.

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SUNY board appoints Cuomo insider, prompting no-confidence vote from Faculty Senate

Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College and longtime advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo, will take up the chancellorship Aug. 31. His appointment prompted the SUNY Faculty Senate to vote no confidence in the system's board.


Cuomo adviser Jim Malatras likely to be named SUNY chancellor without full search process

The State University of New York Board of Trustees will likely forgo a national search for a new chancellor despite faculty opposition.


Leadership strategies for community college presidents during the current crisis (opinion)

Leading through crisis is a skill that many of us in higher education are developing on the go these days, and presidents of community colleges are facing particular challenges. Our institutions, which serve about 12 million students in the United States today, are straining to help already vulnerable students face the pandemic while keeping our operations running. Students who are food insecure, losing part-time jobs and struggling academically are turning to us in extraordinary numbers. Many of them rely on us for internet connections, loaner laptops, food banks and scholarships.

In the U.S., about 72 percent of community college students work to pay tuition and living expenses. Many of those low-wage jobs -- in restaurants, daycare centers and the like -- have disappeared overnight. With 34 percent of all community college students receiving Pell Grants, and 36 percent being the first in their families to attend college, these students are more vulnerable than many who attend four-year institutions.

At Montgomery College, our 55,000 students are learning from home. More than 8,600 of them are Pell Grant recipients, with their average family income at $24,864 per year. Some students are now writing to us desperate for help with food insecurity. Some are driving to the campuses to sit in the parking lot in their cars to use our internet connection. Some without laptops have started using cellphones to follow classwork.

While I have a remarkable team of dedicated faculty and staff members, some of my leadership tactics are evolving day by day. I’m trying to make room in my schedule for the weekly and monthly planning that really needs to happen, but it’s a balancing act. To keep myself oriented in this crisis environment, I rely on a few leadership strategies. Some are instinctive, and some of them are borrowed from other leaders. Whatever the source, they’ve helped me to steer straight through this unprecedented time. Here are four tools that I find myself using repeatedly.

Organize teams. The pressure to make decisions that are well informed and timely requires input from personnel from different divisions and levels of the institution. Thus, rapidly organizing groups around immediate questions or decision points is important: at our institution, I organized a Coronavirus Advisory Team made up of public safety and emergency management personnel, the nursing dean, the health sciences chair, and the media relations director. I then called on my cabinet already in existence to serve as a sounding board and collaborative team. We have met almost every day over videoconference for the past month -- sometimes for up to two hours. I’ve tried to set clear priorities for our response -- radical inclusion, compassion, equity and academic excellence -- while also empowering others to propose and implement solutions.

Don’t leave anyone behind. That’s my clarion call. And it’s working so far. Our ability to be responsive is directly tied to these teams, as people work across divisions to get necessary work done, including responding to 1,000 students who have reached out to us for assistance and distributing almost $417,000 in emergency aid (food, technology, rent) to them.

Make clear, timely decisions. One of the challenges for leaders is making big decisions rapidly in the context of many changing variables. Here are just a few from our experience in the last few weeks:

  • Deciding whether to go public with a student and an employee with symptoms but no positive test for COVID-19.
  • Deciding how to distribute necessary technology to staff and faculty for remote work while keeping college IT workers safe.
  • Deciding to pay our hourly workers for three weeks even when they couldn’t come in.
  • Deciding whether to go to pass/fail grading when most of our local schools had done so. We decided not to do this (which was unpopular with some people).

We’ve had to revise ideas almost daily and check to ensure that we’re not overly relying on old models. I check in often with my teams to learn what they are hearing and seeing so that we can respond in real time to problems.

We are assessing some of our assumptions about our business model and asking ourselves:

  • Will our county be able to support our operating costs?
  • Will our local donors still be able to support scholarships on which our students depend?
  • Will we have to change which degrees are offered to meet post-COVID markets?
  • Will degrees still have the same value in the post-COVID world?

There are also some open questions that we’re living into:

  • Will students be able to learn successfully in emergency remote status?
  • Will faculty members with no experience remote teaching be effective?
  • Will students enroll for summer or fall if we are still in emergency remote teaching status?
  • Will students be able to afford tuition if unemployment climbs?

I have asked my senior leaders to sketch out multiple scenarios that might evolve in answer to those questions. Facing such possibilities -- and considering the financial and personnel ramifications of each -- better prepares us for facing the next reality. We must also monitor changes to the wider economy and local businesses, as their circumstances can significantly impact our institution. Our tight connections to workforce development may end up being an advantage in these perilous times, as businesses reconfigure for the post-COVID era.

Empower others to lead. Like most higher education leaders, I imagine, I have worked seven days a week for the last five weeks, probably 12 hours a day. But I realize I can’t do it all -- literally. The implementation of dozens of changes to procedures takes many hands. I have always had a leadership style that encourages people to lead within their own divisions, and I can see clearly now how much that matters.

A top-down leadership approach in our current climate would be unmanageable, considering the speed with which we’ve been responding to constant change. Each day, we must consider new factors and adapt to them. Giving other people on staff the authority to make decisions is vital.

Also, some leaders will rise who are not necessarily senior members: character and judgment are key qualities. People who are able to respond quickly but calmly are valuable in these moments. Watch for them, and help them grow into increased responsibilities.

In addition, you should model the civility and compassion you want your direct reports to show their own staff. Remind them to care for themselves so that they don’t burn out over the long run.

Empathize. If you are working feverishly to get things done, you can end up pushing yourself and your team very hard. I remind myself, usually by saying it out loud in meetings, “Let’s not forget that folks among us may be suffering: someone could be sick at home, children are running amok, jobs may be lost, families fragmented.” Keep in mind that even your best employees have personal lives that this crisis may seriously impact.

Remember to convey your concern -- it means a lot. Do it verbally and in writing. I have been in communication with my entire college in writing -- and sometimes through video -- every weekday for the past month. I hear that they appreciate this very much. They are looking for guidance in a time of great uncertainty. Leaders can be a calming, informative influence.

Also ensure continuity of operations: If a president gets sick, or if someone in their senior leadership or their family falls ill, who is positioned to step in? One of the lessons from the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015 was how vulnerable a college could be to a loss at any level of leadership. In a worst-case scenario, multiple leaders could be out of commission, seriously impacting a college’s continuity of operations at a very critical moment. Smaller institutions where only a few people have much knowledge about how things work should plan for that possibility. Could your organization go on without its top leaders? We are currently writing new policies on this, and our board is evaluating them.

I also remind my fellow presidents that, as we care for our employees and coworkers, we can’t forget to take care of ourselves. Attend to your own families. Exercise. Do whatever calms you: meditate, pray, connect with other leaders who know what you are feeling.

Set the tone. Most leaders realize that their colleagues and staff members feed off their energy. Setting a tone that is calm but realistic is important.

Employees will trust you if you are truthful. None of us knows the outcome of this situation. To say that everyone will have their jobs at the end of this, or that no one in our colleges and universities will be seriously affected, is not possible. However, the strengths and values that your institution already has can be pillars for your work in any crisis.

At Montgomery College, we emphasize radical inclusion -- which means no one gets left behind. We’re bringing that value into this current space with renewed vigor. I can see it playing out already in the ways that faculty members are helping each other and in how students are supporting those who don’t have technology or who live alone. I see it in donors who have stepped up to give gifts for food insecurity and laptops for remote learners. It moves me personally and is healing for us all to see people supporting one another. Don’t forget to share these stories: they give everyone hope about how we will emerge from our current situation.

Like all colleges, ours also values academic excellence, so we are channeling an extraordinary amount of energy into remaking our academic experience online -- providing tutoring and technology assistance for those who need it. We’re captioning classes for students with hearing impairments and shipping technology to students who are visually impaired so they can follow the chat boxes in their classes. We’re hosting Zoom meetings for counseling and students’ clubs and activities.

There is really no area of college services that we’re not replicating online in adapted forms. Continuing to teach so that we can “empower our students to change their lives” is our core mission. So we’re refocusing on that, even as we juggle so many other demands.

Whatever the size of your college or the needs of your students, I’m guessing that most leaders are doing the same right now, too. Transparency and compassion will serve us all well as we engage what is certainly one of our biggest challenges yet.

DeRionne P. Pollard is the president of Montgomery College in Maryland.

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