This address was given by EIU President Dr, David Glassman in a Virtual Fall Convocation ceremony, held Sunday, August 23.
Good Evening! Welcome to Eastern Illinois University’s annual new student convocation. I am so glad you’re able to join us online this evening.
My name is David Glassman, and I am proud to be President here at EIU. All of us in the Eastern community are excited to share in your journey as students at Eastern, and even more proud to be a part of your success now and in the future.
I’ve been lucky to see many of our new students around campus and in our community over the past few days. I want to take a quick moment to share how equally proud I am of your commitment to each other’s health and wellness.
As you know, this year brings unique challenges, requiring us to be diligent and steadfast in surmounting them. As admitted students of EIU, each of you has already demonstrated a strong and determined quality of character. I’m asking you to let those attributes guide your actions this year.
At EIU, we’re all partners in achieving success. This year, we must also be partners in protecting each other, and our collective behaviors must reflect that. So before I begin, let me first say thank you. Thank you for choosing Eastern Illinois University, and thank you for keeping EIU as safe and healthy as possible for everyone this year.
As far as traditions go, convocations are almost as old as universities themselves. Tonight’s Virtual Fall Convocation is our way of welcoming you into EIU’s academic community, and we are delighted that you have chosen Eastern to pursue your higher education. Under normal circumstances, we would gather together with faculty, students, and staff to celebrate the beginning of our 125th academic year. I’d ask our new students to stand and be welcomed, which would be met with thunderous applause by our faculty and staff. I’d also have a chance to recognize our faculty and staff, which I’ll certainly not miss an opportunity to do here. Thank you all for your tireless dedication to the education and development of our students. Your flexibility last spring and intense planning over the summer deserves special recognition, because it’s what has allowed us to do everything we can this fall to ensure the success of our students.
Convocation is only one of the many traditions associated with this great university. Eastern was founded in 1895 as a normal school, a college devoted to the training of teachers. Some of Illinois’ best teachers have graduated from this university over the years, but our mission of educating teachers has expanded to include the education of a wide range of professions: writers, scientists, business executives, nurses, civic leaders, artists, programmers, and almost any other career you can imagine.
We’re exceedingly proud of our history of preparing productive and responsible citizens, and this preparation includes much more than just the courses you will take within your majors. Our general education curriculum will give you the opportunity to study and learn science, social science, arts, and humanities. These disciplines are the foundation of more than a university education – they help our students to live a more productive and meaningful life. One that inspires lifelong learning essential for a world and economy that seems to be changing daily before our very eyes. Eastern’s faculty come from all across the nation and the world to join you in this endeavor. Individual attention, meaningful learning experiences, and authentic faculty, staff and student partnerships are at the heart of the Eastern experience.
Worldwide, only about 1% of the population has the opportunity to attend and graduate from college. All of you have that opportunity, and being part of that 1% makes you very fortunate. However, it also gives you a greater responsibility.
You are going to find that university life is different from high school. Here, everyone is from the top half of their high school class, and many rank much higher than that. But as I indicated earlier, having been accepted to Eastern Illinois University means that in each and every one of you, we saw the promise of success. You come to us with many talents, and you all have the opportunity and the talent it takes to graduate. Study hard, manage your time, pay attention to those due dates for assignments and projects, and above all, apply the best of yourself to your education and your life here at Eastern Illinois University. Together we can create a world that you, your children and grandchildren will be proud to live in.
There is another shared core value of this institution that is extremely important. We, at EIU, believe in the power and importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. At EIU, we are ALL IN for you. And when we say that, we pledge to be All-in for all of our students regardless of race, gender, age, religion or sexual diversity. Complementing that pledge is a commitment to community, an EIU community that extends respect to all members – faculty, staff and students. We must all remember that our words matter. We must be thoughtful in our interactions with others. By working hard and giving fresh voices a platform to be heard, we can rise above discrimination, racism and prejudice. We stand tall in support of social justice and deplore systemic racism. EIU is one family and our campus is our home.
Before I finish tonight, I wish to remind you once again about the unique challenges that exist and the preparations taken for this historic semester. EIU has worked diligently throughout the past four months to establish procedures and protocols aimed at safeguarding our students, our employees, and our neighbors. We’ve issued a Return-to-Campus guidebook that I urge each of you to become familiar with. It details the University’s policies on student and employee facemasks, social distancing, and the importance of daily self-screening for every member of our University Family. Those feeling even slightly ill are being asked to self-isolate and/or stay home.
More than 50 percent of our Fall 2020 classes are being offered fully or partially online to reduce student density in shared academic spaces. We limited our residence halls to single-occupancy rooms and reduced seating in dining areas. And of course, we’ve increased supplies of soap, water, paper towels, and hand sanitizer throughout campus.
Even with all the measures EIU has put in place to protect our on- and off-campus communities, each of us also have a great responsibility for our ongoing public health and wellness. This means being vigilant in ensuring our day-to-day activities and interactions are as safe as possible, and by following EIU’s health and safety guidelines with equal intensity whether you are on or off campus.
The science has been clear with regard to Covid-19 prevention. Wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, washing hands, limiting gatherings, and keeping casual interactions brief are ways in which we all can mitigate the spread of the virus.
We all want nothing more than to go back to our normal routines. But until there’s a vaccine, COVID-19 will continue to influence what we can, should, can’t, or shouldn’t do. Be smart, and be cautious. Know that every person you come into contact with is relying on you to be as safe as possible just as much as you are relying on them. Doing your part to Protect our Panthers will allow us all to have a safe and productive year. Do not, and I repeat, do not engage in risky behaviors of hosting or attending any social gatherings on or off-campus unless ALL individuals are wearing masks and practicing social distancing. This is true for everyone -- freshmen, upperclassmen, graduate students, international students, fraternities and sororities, student athletes, RSOs -- everyone. If there are more than 10 individuals at a non-EIU sponsored event, turn away.
We all want to be here at EIU, on its beautiful campus and in the friendly city of Charleston. And we will be able to do so ONLY as long as we can control the spread of the COVID virus.
At this time students, I welcome you all to EIU for a wonderful and successful new academic year. We are so pleased that you are here and we believe that you will get an education that will surpass all others.