Adapting to our new normal

Since mid-March, the leaders of NMSU-Las Cruces, along with representatives of the Chancellor’s Office, have held weekly town hall-style webinars to answer questions from our community. While these webinars cannot replace direct human interaction, the questions submitted provide invaluable insight into your concerns and hopes for our future. It is clear that many people look forward to returning to campus, while others question how we will do this, and if it is too soon.

The biggest challenge we are facing now is to plan ahead without all the information and data needed and to work within a constantly changing and uncertain environment. Addressing these challenges starts with a reaffirmation that NMSU is a land-grant university with a mission to serve the people of New Mexico through education, research and Extension, and service. That is simply who we are. Although our mission has not changed, our times and our environment have. We have no choice but to adapt to our new circumstances. This is why we are talking about how to return to campus. We must learn how to operate in our new environment.

We must also be willing – collectively and individually – to do what is needed to protect ourselves, our colleagues and our students. Many people asked what NMSU will do to keep employees safe as we return to campus. We are considering many specific items and actions that NMSU could take, with a few examples being: continued cleaning and sanitizing of buildings; installing protective guards; providing sanitizer, masks, shields and other personal protective equipment; reducing class size; stricter guidelines, etc. However, we need everybody to think about the same question from a personal perspective: What will you do to keep yourself and others safe? Yesterday, more than 1,000 people watched the town hall meeting, and nearly 800 of those individuals weighed in regarding what they were willing to do. The vast majority agreed to common sense, recommended practices:

  • 92 percent: Maintain six feet between myself and others at all times.
  • 90 percent: Wash my hands often.
  • 86 percent: Wear a face covering in public spaces.
  • 91 percent: Take responsibility for sanitizing my workspace and my space in shared areas like meeting rooms and reception counters.
  • 97 percent: Stay home when I do not feel well.

These numbers indicate that the vast majority of you are willing to do your part to help keep everybody safer. Thank you.

Related news: Yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that some businesses, closed since March, can reopen today under social distancing guidelines. Adherence to the guidelines as those businesses reopen will provide us with an early test regarding our ability to operate an enterprise like a university.

To conclude on a note of kindness, at a Senate meeting on April 23, ASNMSU set aside $60,000 to create the ASNMSU Emergency Funding Act. According to the Round Up, this fund was created to “provide funding that will help students keep in school [during] times of financial hardships.” Students in need can request funds through the Dean of Students Office. I commend our students and their leadership for taking this action.

Be bold. Be kind. Be safe.

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