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Renewing our community this fall

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne welcomes the campus community to fall quarter and urges grace and empathy as we come back together.

Dear members of our Stanford community,

I hope you all share the huge sense of energy and renewal that I feel as we head into fall quarter and our community begins to come together in one place once again.

Many of you recently arrived back on campus, or are in the process of arriving this week. Students are moving into the residences, faculty are launching in-person courses this fall and more researchers are returning to their labs. It’s inspiring to see our community filling our beautiful campus with so much life once again – and I can’t wait to see even more of you in person in the days and weeks ahead.

As we return, I know that many of you have concerns about the current health situation. I appreciate the anxiety many feel as we return to on-site work and learning. I want to stress that we are fortunate to have a highly vaccinated community, and one with effective masking, testing and other health and safety measures in place to identify and isolate cases and protect against community spread. You’ve been hearing about these measures in other communications, and we’ll continue to keep you informed of any changes.

Clearly, the situation will continue to evolve. I want you to know that we are firmly committed to supporting our community’s continued health through the fall quarter and beyond, leveraging these measures and everything we’ve learned through 18 months of experience with COVID-19. Doing so will require all of us to take collective responsibility in caring for one another’s well-being in the weeks and months ahead.

The pandemic has revealed how deeply interconnected we all are. Throughout the past year, members of our community have given of themselves to support one another – and in doing so, they’ve illuminated who we are at our best. Faculty members developed creative ways to introduce course material from a distance, such as mailing chemistry sets across the country so that students could work together over Zoom. Students served their local communities by volunteering at food banks, creating hygiene kits for those in need and tutoring at-risk kids. Staff members, whether on campus or remote, kept our mission of teaching and research alive through a deeply challenging time. And Stanford Medicine clinicians and staff have been on the front lines, providing care to our surrounding communities.

Now, as we return to campus, we have the opportunity to rebuild our Stanford community to reflect the creativity, perseverance and generosity of spirit that all of you have displayed over the past 18 months.

One way I ask you to do this is by having grace and empathy for one another, and for the vastly different experiences we each have had during the pandemic. While some have struggled with isolation, others have felt overwhelmed by additional family responsibilities. While some haven’t been to campus since March 2020, others have worked on campus every day throughout the pandemic. Whatever your individual circumstances have been, we have all experienced loss over the past year. Let us meet one another with compassion as we navigate coming together from vastly different experiences.

I ask that we all extend that grace and empathy to our broader interactions, as well. This year has been a stark reminder of the humanity and vulnerability of each of us. As we come back together, let’s honor each other’s dignity in the ways that we interact around ideas, opinions and deeply held beliefs, even when we do not see eye-to-eye. Let us take this opportunity to rebuild an educational community that supports a high level of discourse: one that is humane, tolerant, guided by a love of learning and the search for truth and that gives all of us the opportunity to learn from one another, even when we’re discussing contentious issues.

As we renew our bonds of community and reengage in our work with refreshed vigor, the university will be holding a series of “We are Stanford” welcome events. These include a staff welcome event in Frost Amphitheater on Sept. 27; a fall festival offering ritual, artistic, commemorative and celebratory programs to express all that we have been through over the past 18 months; and opportunities to honor and celebrate Stanford heroes. I hope you will join us.

I want to close by thanking all who have prepared our campus for the safe return of many more members of our community. I also want to thank all who have worked both on-campus and remotely over the past 18 months to sustain our mission of research and education.

To our entire community, I’m deeply grateful for your hard work, your perseverance and your ongoing efforts to keep our community safe and well.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne