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March 12, 2021

Dear Tufts students, faculty, and staff,

It was one year ago that we shifted to remote education, curtailed research, closed clinics for all but emergency care, and began to work from home. Twelve months later, vaccinations give us hope, while variants give us pause. In short, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we also know there remain challenging days ahead of us.

Over the past year, more than 2.6 million people around the world have died from COVID-19, with nearly 20 percent of these deaths occurring in the United States. Among those who have passed away are our colleagues, our friends, our family members, and our acquaintances. To those of you who have known this loss in your personal life, please accept my sincere condolences. You do not grieve alone.

These personal losses have been accompanied by bouts of loneliness, mental and emotional fatigue, and a loss of independence that we all felt at times over the past year. And it has been set against a backdrop of violence and bigotry against Black and Brown and Asian and Asian American communities, and a rise of anti-Semitism in our country.

Though this has been perhaps our most difficult year, it has also been a time of enormous pride in our community. Tufts students, faculty, and staff have come together to support each other, to find creative solutions to problems none of us had ever anticipated, to provide comfort in times of pain, and to find areas of hope and optimism. Our community has risen to the challenge.

I encourage you to spend some time with the content in Tufts Now’s one-year retrospective. Get the perspective of a TUSM student on a surgical rotation in Italy as the pandemic struck. Hear from Dr. Margaret Higham about Tufts’ response to our own first positive case. Recall Cummings School’s donations of medical supplies to local healthcare facilities and how TUSDM’s emergency clinics met the moment to serve our community. Revisit our faculty members’ efforts to move research from labs to homes and the first online thesis defense at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Read how Fletcher School military fellows employed their expertise in crisis response—and how Friedman students addressed food insecurity. Consider the resumption of artistic creation in new environments, how a community came together to support its students, and how alumni and parents rallied together to meet our students’ needs. Experience what it meant for a sports season canceled on the brink of a championship and another cut short before it could really begin. And, perhaps most important, meet 20 campus heroes who have kept Tufts running during this most difficult time.

These are just a few of the countless stories that emerged over the past year. Our faculty adapted their coursework for both in-person and virtual instruction in record time, our staff came together to ensure that the campus was safe for our students to return and put together a surveillance testing program not just for our own on campus community but also for neighbors and the public-school systems in Medford and Somerville. Our students came up with new and creative ways to maintain community, foster camaraderie, and infuse us all with optimism and give us hope that our future remains bright.

The word ‘unprecedented’ has become a bit overused this past year. Instead, I want to focus on precedent—setting precedents, to be specific. I believe the remarkable collaboration and cooperation amongst faculty, staff, and students—across all our campuses—that we saw this past year has set a precedent and must be carried forward. The care, comfort, and support that we have provided each other during this year must be a precedent that becomes our standard every academic year. Finally, the call to create a more just, equitable, and fair society through active citizenship and public service will be a precedent that guides all our actions. I look forward to working with you and building on these precedents to keep the light on the Hill burning brighter than ever.

Best wishes,

Tony Monaco