Together again

Campus community overcomes challenges to start the new year.

Patrick Garrity
November 5, 2020
Exeter dorm proctors seated on the ground waiting to welcome students to campus.

Masks might conceal the smiles but they can’t suppress the joy. Make no mistake: Exeter is back. Physically distancing, learning remotely and adapting on the fly, certainly, but back together as a campus community after a long spring term and summer break apart because of the pandemic.

Students began a staggered return to campus in early September to start a new academic year. They found many necessary changes. Most boarding students are living in single-occupancy rooms. Classes are largely being conducted online, with boarders logging on from their dorm rooms and day students from the library.

About 150 students have chosen to study from home for the term. Meals are offered in grab-and-go options to allow students to dine outdoors or in dorm rooms. Clubs meet virtually, and sports practices have been modified to limit close contact. Assemblies are conducted without actually assembling — in person at least; speakers address the student body each Tuesday and Friday remotely.

And yet, despite all the changes and challenges, campus has crackled to life. Paths and quads and athletic fields buzz. Students have keenly adapted Harkness skills to their Zoom meetings, and our faculty — a spring term of remote teaching now under their belts — have shown off their flexibility and creativity to maintain Exeter’s renowned academic rigor. Music ensembles and dance companies convene outdoors. Science labs venture outside for improvised field trips. Exeter, masked and six feet apart, is still Exeter.

Principal Rawson’s Opening Assembly message clearly was well received: “Though this year will be different as a consequence of the pandemic, our aspirations as a school are the same. … I hope you find joy in all of your activities; in knowing that you belong here; in finding kindred spirits; and in building friendships with those who might seem very different from you,” Principal Rawson said. “I encourage you to focus not on what is currently out of reach because of the pandemic, but on what you can do, here and now, to make the most of every day and every opportunity.”

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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