To My USMO Colleagues:
I welcome you back from spring break, knowing full well that many of you haven’t had much of one. It goes without saying that these are unprecedented times, and that they require unprecedented action—swift, decisive, compassionate—to safeguard the health of our students and employees while maintaining the USM’s essential role as a public good in Maryland.
I have been overwhelmed by the dedication you’ve shown to help us through the challenges this pandemic has brought to bear. Working through upended schedules and remote locations—with child care, elder care, and other significant responsibilities added to your burden—you have been heroic in making sure that the USM is a beacon for our universities and regional centers, and that we can continue offering them the very best guidance and most beneficial support. These are uncharted waters—in teaching and learning, research, patient and client services, and absolutely every facet of our administrative, financial, and student support operations.
Through this upheaval, USMO staff are ensuring that our IT infrastructure can withstand the heavy demands we’re placing upon it, that our buildings and facilities are safe and well-maintained, that we’re communicating with our institutions, with USM and state leaders, and with the public—and that we’re doing so quickly, clearly, and unambiguously. Our staff are working with state leaders to advance our agenda before the General Assembly, which adjourned today, the first time a legislative session has ended early since the Civil War. Staff are supporting our employees during this period of remote work, helping them feel connected and heard when our isolation from one another makes both difficult.
All of this makes a difference. I’ve seen letters from students whose semesters are uncertain, whose research is threatened, whose end-of-year celebrations are in jeopardy. And they thank us. Despite the sacrifices they’ll almost certainly have to make, they thank us for putting them first, for protecting their health and, by extension, the health of the communities in which they live, learn, and work.
In times like these, my natural inclination as a leader is to “walk the floor,” to see how my staff are doing, to find out where they’re having issues and how we might resolve them. It’s an understatement to say that mandatory telework makes this difficult. So consider this letter me walking the floor. I invite you to share with me—and, of course, with your supervisors—how your work is getting done and where we might improve the process. We’re all in this together, truly. And with open communication, with opportunities to sustain our dialogue, I absolutely believe we’ll get through this period of crisis stronger and closer than ever before.
I can’t thank you enough for the work you’re doing. I know these circumstances will test us, but I also know—already—that there’s no one I’d rather have beside me as we confront these challenges. I will not forget your extraordinary dedication, your deep expertise, and your singular eagerness to help your colleagues succeed.
Over the upcoming weeks, as we work from home, please take care of yourselves and your families. Get rest and exercise. Take part in the things that make you feel stronger and more connected. Look out for friends and loved ones, neighbors and strangers, who might need you. I know you are among an incredible community of people who will come together in compassionate action to support one another, especially those whose health is more compromised than your own.
Certainly, I didn’t anticipate the full threat of COVID-19 when I became chancellor, but I’ve never been prouder of the University System of Maryland—for putting science, health, and safety first, and for leading, always, in the ways that matter.
Be safe, be well, and be good to each other.
Jay A. Perman