Friday, October 23, 2020

Celebrating our History – and Differences – and Shaping Our Future

During this month of October – LGBT History Month – we observe and honor LGBT history, as well those who have courageously strived for and worked towards achieving LGBT equality. As the work of BU’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion continues, I want to acknowledge and thank the members of the Commission, and particularly its Co-Chairs, Dr. Shavonne Shorter and Ms. Madelyn Rodriguez for their leadership.

I also recognize and thank the members of our LGBTQA community here at BU – their engagement is equally as important as we aim to become a more diverse, inclusive, supportive, and welcoming community for all. While so many of our activities and events have become virtual due to the COVID-19 virus and our sense of “community” has seemingly been altered of late, we must not lose sight of the importance of community and the richness of diversity that lies within the BU Family.

We will only grow together by appreciating our differences. The different identities that each of us holds informs our experiences not only on campus, but also prepares us – particularly our students – for a world far beyond Bloomsburg and Northeast Pennsylvania. By listening and learning from one another and celebrating the diversity within our community, we have an incredible opportunity to leave our marks on the history of this institution that will benefit future generations of students, faculty, and staff.

As we shape the future, let us also celebrate LGBT History this month – and celebrate the achievements of those who have influenced and shaped this important history. For those interested in learning more, check out our LGBTQA resources on campus. I am looking forward to BU’s 13th annual Mid-Atlantic LGBTQA Conference next month (Nov. 7-8). It will be held virtually and free of charge. 

    Bashar W. Hanna, President


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Huskies Adapt

As I sit with my large mug of coffee on this Sunday morning and reflect on the semester, I am awestruck by our Husky adaptability.

After three-plus months of planning to return to campus for the fall 2020 semester, hundreds (if not thousands) of human resource hours went into creating plans to address and mitigate as many COVID-19 risk factors as possible.  Not long after we welcomed first-year and transfer students to the BU Family and said welcome back to returning students, we immediately began to encounter challenges that directly or indirectly impacted the entire Husky Nation.

As the number of COVID-19 cases began to increase and approach triple digits, we faced a “fork in the road” – march on or pivot. After many hours of exploring and assessing options, we decided it was more prudent to pivot. Such decisions are difficult and are seldom free of critique.

The remarkable quality of the BU Family to pivot and adapt continues to amaze. And it is with a spirit of awe and gratitude that, on behalf of our students, I express my deep appreciation and gratitude to our faculty and staff’s extraordinary commitment and dedication. 

THANK YOU!

    Bashar W. Hanna, President


Monday, August 17, 2020

Welcome to the Fall 2020 Semester

Dear BU Family,

As we begin the Fall 2020 semester, I would like to take a moment first to welcome our newest Huskies – our first-year and transfer students, and our new faculty members. We are excited that each of you has joined the Husky Family, and I look forward to meeting you in the coming months ahead. I also welcome back our returning students and faculty members. For all of us, this semester will be an unusual one, and I am especially grateful to my colleagues who have spent countless hours over the past several months to prepare for this atypical semester.

My thanks, as well, to each of you for your patience and understanding during these challenging times. As we have done so since last March, we will continuously monitor the latest information on the COVID-19 virus (including any developing student incidence rates), and respond accordingly to the changing circumstances. 

The health and safety of the entire BU community remains our highest priority, and every single one of us must abide by the necessary safety precautions. This pandemic has given us the opportunity to demonstrate the sense of family that makes BU a special place – and that sense of family means taking responsibility for yourself and showing consideration and respect for others.

  • please wear a face mask on and off campus
  • socially distance yourself from others
  • and wash your hands frequently

Lastly, I urge all of you to check in on a daily basis via our Husky Health Checker , and please continue to monitor our website for the latest updates. We are all in this together as one BU Family, and we will only contain and reduce the spread of this virus if each of us takes personal responsibility for our actions.

MASK UP, HUSKIES!

Sincerely,

    Bashar W. Hanna, President


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Valuing our differences and learning from one another

Dear BU Family,

Since the inexplicable death of George Floyd in Minnesota last month, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some additional thoughts, and invite all of you to do the same at virtual town halls this summer. So that we may become a stronger and better BU and a more welcoming and inclusive community, we must continue this important dialogue together.

To BU students, parents, colleagues, and alumni of color, particularly Black members of our community: regardless of any discrimination I endured, I cannot put myself in your place, but I share your outrage. The outpouring of grief, frustration and anger in recent protests across our country and the globe arrived amidst a pandemic that has ravaged communities, seeded fear, and placed physical distance between us.

Education should be an effective antidote for discrimination and bigotry. There is no better way to challenge our own notions and learn to value cultural differences than to open-mindedly learn from one another as one community. When I arrived at BU in July 2017, I spent my first year meeting with many constituencies, listening, and observing. In my second year, I established the President’s Commission for Diversity and Inclusion, co-chaired by Dr. Shavonne Shorter and Mr. Wayne Whitaker. Because of what I learned in my first year, I identified diversity, equity and inclusion as an area of opportunity for our community, and this will be one of three pillars in the strategic plan that will guide BU for the next decade.

Over the past year, the Commission has been hosting town hall meetings, engaging in focus groups with various constituency groups, and collecting data. In Fall 2019, we administered a campus climate survey to employees and students, specifically inquiring about our diversity and inclusion efforts and opportunities. The results of this survey were being analyzed as COVID-19 hit us. We shared an overview of the survey results at our Leadership Council meeting last week, and we will share the same information with the BU community at the beginning of the fall semester.

The commitment to make our University a more diverse, inclusive, and supportive institution has never been more important or more urgent. This criticality was galvanized last fall when faculty, staff and I walked arm-in-arm with our students demanding diversity, inclusion and safety.

Huskies do not cower in the face of adversity. We have grit and we will overcome. Each of us must do our part to inspire our communities. We must listen and learn from each other, appreciate what makes us different, celebrate this diversity, and steadfastly remain true to our common humanity.

In the spirit of open-mindedly learning from one another, I have held over the past month virtual listening sessions with the newly elected student officers of our Community Government Association, the President’s Commission for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Leadership Council members. Last week, I took part in a virtual community event hosted by Columbia County’s Coalition for Social Equity, and moderated by our own Dr. Shorter. As I have listened to students and colleagues and community members in these conversations, I have learned a lot, and I look forward to hearing from even more voices within the BU Family. I have invited members of the faculty and staff to join me at upcoming virtual listening sessions this summer, and look forward to scheduling more sessions for students, alumni, and other members of our community beginning in August.

Please join me in the critical work ahead. We Huskies will rise to this occasion, persevere, and serve as a model for others to emulate. I look forward to collaborating with you!

Sincerely,
    Bashar W. Hanna, President


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A message to the BU Family

Dear BU Family,

I am certain that I speak for all members in our community in expressing my deep dismay and sadness over last week’s tragic and seemingly inexplicable death of George Floyd in Minnesota. I strongly condemn the conduct of the police officers involved in this horrific incident. While there is some semblance of justice in knowing that one of the officers has been charged for this senseless murder, this news is of little comfort to the family of George Floyd. Nor is it of any comfort to the millions of people – including our students, colleagues, alumni, and friends – who may also have been the victim of discrimination or racial profiling.

Last week’s painful incident strikes a deeply personal chord for so many of you – as well as myself. Having been born in Syria, I, too, have been the unfortunate victim of discriminatory comments and behavior, and my heart yearns for a safe and more just world for all.

At Bloomsburg University, we have no tolerance for racism or discrimination. Though we are apart right now, we stand together in support of every member of the BU Family. We are strong because we embrace our diversity, and we will become stronger as we strive to be more diverse, more welcoming, and more inclusive.

The call for more diversity and inclusivity was proclaimed loudly and clearly by our students during their on-campus protest last fall. Amidst the news of demonstrations and protests currently taking place in cities across our country, I am reminded of how united we were last November at BU. Along with faculty and staff, I joined hands and walked with our students and the student leaders who planned and coordinated the well-organized event. Through that peaceful protest against racism and bigotry, we collectively expressed our unified commitment to be a better and safer BU community in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

Within our community, we must not lose sight of the fact that our greatest strength remains our ability to educate tomorrow’s leaders. Indeed, our power lies in education, and we must lead by being open-minded and being open to difficult conversations. There’s no better example on our campus of leading through peaceful and constructive dialogue than last fall’s student-led demonstration. As I said to the students that afternoon on the steps of Carver Hall, our voices unified in a peaceful way is critical to moving our institution and the world forward.

Today, I ask all of you to join me in reaffirming your belief in the power of education, your commitment to fostering peaceful and constructive dialogue, and your commitment to valuing the human dignity of all members within the BU community – particularly our underrepresented students and colleagues. Together, we will continue to learn from one another, and we will lead meaningful change together – for BU, for our region, and for our global community.

Thank you for all that you do for BU, and may you continue to stay safe during these challenging times.

Sincerely,
    Bashar


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Doing our part

Each spring for the past decade, Bloomsburg University students have participated in “The Big Event,” a Saturday in which thousands of students volunteer their time and help members of the Bloomsburg community with projects ranging from assisting a local business with its exterior design to doing a backyard cleanup for elderly residents. Whatever the task, our students have accepted the various challenges with cheerful attitudes and a sense of pride in giving back – because giving back to the community is in their DNA. Organized each year by the elected student leaders of BU’s Community Government Association, this event serves as a wonderful example of the power of collaboration for the benefit of our neighbors and community partners.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current social distancing guidelines, this year’s Big Event was unfortunately canceled not long after BU made the difficult decision last month to move to online instruction for the remainder of the semester.

During these extraordinary times, the opportunity to assist a fellow member of the community is challenging, if not impossible. Despite these challenges, however, I am proud to say that Bloomsburg University continues to do its part by helping in the community.

Since the last week of March, thanks to the generosity and compassion of our nursing department, and to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of my colleagues in both the College of Science and Technology and the Zeigler College of Business (where we used our 3D printers in the Nicholas J. Giuffre Center for Supply Chain Management to produce masks and face shields), Bloomsburg University has donated the following personal protective equipment items to Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, and Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg:
  • 3,714 surgical masks
  • 1,272 N95 masks
  • 300 isolation gowns (and 15 disposable gowns)
  • 150 face shields
  • 60 visors
  • 50 medical coveralls
  • Multiple boxes of sterile gloves and non-sterile gloves
Because our students are not on campus and almost all of our residence halls are vacant, we are also prepared to provide temporary living quarters to Geisinger employees who are seeking alternative accommodations out of concern for exposure to their own family members. According to a metric geometry working group at Tufts University in Boston, there currently exist 46,167 total hospital beds in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania while there is capacity for 196,174 individuals in empty dorm rooms at colleges and universities across the state. It is my hope that this pandemic does not create an urgent need for rooms at BU or any other institution of higher learning in Pennsylvania. But given the current environment on college campuses, it is clear that universities are well situated to assist local hospitals should that need unfortunately arise.

While I am proud of the many Bloomsburg University alumni who are health care professionals fighting on the front lines of this pandemic in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, I am equally as proud of what BU is doing in this area – and I hope that our actions can serve as an example of the opportunity to make even a small difference in the community amidst challenging times.

As we face an uncertain future together, it is ever more important to strengthen our ties within this region so that all can benefit in brighter days ahead. I personally look forward to those brighter days ahead when our students return to campus, and to one day in particular next year: The Big Event in Spring 2021. I hope it will be the biggest and most impactful one yet.

    Bashar


Monday, March 23, 2020

Our semester begins anew

Just a few weeks ago, our students left campus for various destinations with the plan to return for classes after their spring break. As you all know, our world has changed significantly since then because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, we resume our academic semester through remote teaching and learning. This is not a day any of us had anticipated when we began the semester in January, but the current circumstances have required us to move to online instruction for the remainder of the semester. The health and safety of our entire BU community is our highest priority, and it is my sincere hope that this message finds each of you in good health.

I want to take a moment to thank our students and their families. In the past few weeks, we have made several decisions that have impacted our students’ academics, their living arrangements, and the BU experience with which they have become so accustomed. I am ever grateful to each and every one of them for their patience and understanding during these unprecedented times.

I also extend my heartfelt gratitude to my colleagues for their service, selflessness, and support these past couple weeks. This global pandemic has led to extraordinary circumstances, and the response from our faculty and staff has been equally extraordinary.

As our semester begins anew, I am filled with pride – Husky Pride – and great confidence that we are embarking on this journey together. As one pack, let us finish the semester with the grit and determination for which Huskies are known. May we face this uncharted territory as a family and do what we do best by supporting one another, even if from afar.

Please stay connected each day by checking our website, please focus on your health and well-being in the weeks ahead, and GO HUSKIES!

Sincerely,

    Bashar