Whether we’re first year or graduate students, when pulling into campus, Siena Hall’s iconic columns greet us by saying “Welcome to Siena”. For many of us, there’s no place like home, and after vacating campus for over five months, the feeling of being back at school is refreshing, to say the least. This year, move-in was during mid-August, when the late summer foliage was still as verdant as ever. As new and returning students alike re-connected on the quad, MacClosky square, the Paddock, and in their respective dorm rooms, rainbows of flowers sprouted from each plant bed in celebration of a newly reunited community. Even years of calling this campus home, the scenery never gets old. In fact, days before students began to move back, Conde Nast Traveler listed Siena’s campus one of the top 50 most beautiful in America, and now that we’re back and in-motion, I wholeheartedly agree.
Despite the addition of tent space for academic and social activities, our campus landscape still has the same breathtaking charm. Our campus climate, however, has adjusted to meticulously abide by local and international precautions to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus. Our campus now has guest visitation restrictions, a mask requirement in every academic and residential building, sanitizing stations in every classroom and hallway, reduced occupancy in dining spaces (many of which only offer meal options to-go), and so much more. A comprehensive list of Siena’s responses to the pandemic can be found on the Marching Forward webpage. Our campus is the same hub of knowledge, school spirit, enthusiasm, and it is a little quieter and a lot cleaner than it has been in the past.
It is incredible to think of how much of a difference a few months can make. This past summer incited fear, protest, education, adherence to safety measures, and a commitment to fight injustice. Peaceful protests demanding justice and accountability for the wrongful murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and countless others reach every corner of the United States. These calls for justice continue to be sustained to this day.
At Siena, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, members of the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center and the Black Student Union organized a peaceful demonstration on campus that took place on Saturday, September 5th, 2020. During this event, members of the Black Student Union held space for conversation, reflection, and calls to action for students and educators. In conjunction with this demonstration, the Mission Office has organized an event series advocating for racial justice. The Office has hosted webinars and events live via zoom with distinguished guest speakers including Dr. Bettina Love, Nyle Fort, and Selwyn Jones addressing topics of allyship, mourning, and the Movement for Black Lives. Now more than ever, it is necessary to be the change and to demand the change our communities and our society need.
To say the least, the past few months have challenged the status quo. Even if my friends and professors are partially hidden by masks or sequestered to a small box on Zoom, starting a new semester will always be a form of familiar chaos. I am optimistic that myself and my fellow students are ready to stay safe, attentive, and active during the upcoming school year. May we all use this as an opportunity to learn with and from one another, and create a considerate and respectful community for all. As our new president Dr. Chris Gibson reminds us, “No matter what the obstacle, as Siena Saints, we are always marching forward”.