A Message from the President

Good morning. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the students, parents, and employees of Trevecca. At the end of these comments, I will share important news of our phased reopening. This decision fits within the context of who we are as a Christian university in the heart of Nashville. So let me begin by providing context for the call to action.

We are all asking, “What is going to happen in the coming year?” Recently, I read a devotional about two different ways that people face the future. One of the ways we think about the future is prediction. Humans have always tried to predict the future. From the Farmer’s Almanac to the current ‘Experts in Everything’, we seek to become the gurus who saw it coming and called it before it happened. We gather the best data, run scenarios, model predictable outcomes, minimize risk, and make decisions. This is how we predict the weather, investment portfolios, and sports. And sometimes, we’re right.

There is another, very different, orientation to the future. It is the way of promise. When Denise and I stood before God in 1973 and vowed our lives to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, we had no predictable model for how our marriage would go. We didn’t know what life would hold for us. Marriage was not a risk avoidance strategy or a data driven decision. And looking back over 47 years, I can assure you that neither of us saw what was ahead. But we faced the future on the solid footing of promises made and kept.

We were not the first to do this. God’s people entered into covenant with God and each other on the basis of promises made and kept. The Biblical word is ‘chesed’. Some have interpreted this Hebrew word as ‘covenant loyalty’. My favorite definition is, “the behavior we have a right to expect of each other in light of the promises made.”

When people face the future on the basis of prediction, the only outcome is winners and losers, those who were right and those who were wrong. We idolize the experts who called it right and punish the pundits who got it wrong. So how will the fall semester at Trevecca Nazarene University play out? With Tennessee trending in the wrong direction, what will happen in the state and in the city of Nashville? How will COVID-19 impact us? My honest answer… I do not know.

The Trevecca leadership team and employees have logged thousands of hours with the experts over the past months – immunologists, cleaning/sanitizing professionals, food service leaders, PPE providers, testing companies, technology companies, consultants, government health organizations at every level, congressional leaders, and our fellow university leaders. We are informed. We have done our homework. We have lived with the data. And we have made a decision about this fall. But it is not prediction that gives me confidence regarding our future. It is promise.

We cannot avoid every risk. We cannot control the actions of 5000 people who belong to the Trevecca community. We cannot assure that a stray germ will not infect you, even behind a mask. We cannot predict the spread of an unseen organism from one community member to another. Reopening Trevecca for the fall semester is a risk. But we are willing to engage this decision on the basis of promises that we make to each other. In essence, we are trusting each other to do what is in the best interest of others.

Trevecca has already taken several important steps. We have divided the semester calendar into two seven-week blocks to reduce person-to-person exposure in the classroom. We have invested heavily in classroom technology to allow students the option of taking each class face to face or online. We have developed safety protocols including masks, social distance, group size, dining, self-reporting, facility use, and quarantine space. We have contracted with COVID-19 testing services and cleaning professionals.

But the most important thing we have done is to offer our students a choice. They can achieve their education face to face or remotely. As we face the future, we have the right to expect of each other behaviors that enhance the health and well-being of everyone. Our students are free to learn in a face-to-face campus environment, but with this comes strong expectations. Living in our community is a responsibility, not a right. You can find the expected protocol at our Back Home to the Hill page.  But students are also free to continue an education remotely. Many will chose this option due to health concerns, personal fear, or mental stress. We will serve these students well as they learn remotely. Should a student make the personal decision not to abide by campus protocol, we expect them to learn remotely. This is not up for debate. We have created a Community Commitment that each student will be asked to sign. This is where ‘chesed’ becomes a reality. We have the right to expect certain behaviors of each other in light of the commitment we have made. We can never issue enough mandates, assess enough fines, scold, shame, or lecture our way to the kind of healthy community we aspire to. It will take a strong dose of self-discipline, old-fashioned personal responsibility, and love of our neighbor to combat a virus that has the potential to close our campus.

Now to the announcement that I promised at the beginning. We are initiating our phased reopening today. (Please note, this information is for the traditional undergraduate programs of Trevecca.) 

  • Student leaders have returned to campus and are already in training for the establishment of a healthy culture.
  • All new students (freshmen and transfer, both residential and commuting) will come to the campus on August 11-12 and will be introduced to campus life for the fall. (See the schedule of events at trevecca.edu/newstudent)
  • From August 13-16, our returning residential students will move into their rooms on a staggered schedule and begin practicing the health protocols. (See the move-in schedule here.)
  • On August 17, classes begin for everyone, remote and residential.
  • We are asking our returning commuter students who have chosen the face-to-face option to take their first week of classes online and to return to the classroom beginning August 24. This will allow us to phase the re-population of the campus in stages rather than all at once. Note that this does not include the commuters who are new freshmen or transfers. (See the check-in schedule here.)
  • We have asked our student athletes to delay all season practices until August 20 to allow them time to familiarize themselves with our campus protocol before learning the NCAA sports protocol.

Will we make it through the semester without an outbreak of COVID-19 that requires us to vacate the campus and go online? I cannot predict this with any confidence.  But I can promise to call our community to levels of personal responsibility that will give us the best chance of staying healthy, caring for each other, and continuing our education. If we cannot achieve our goal, the closure of campus and the completion of the semester online will be our only option. This could be triggered by the Nashville Health Department, exhaustion of quarantine space, high rates of employee illness, a clinic shutdown, inability to secure testing results, a disregard for community health protocol, or an outbreak of COVID-19 that is beyond our capacity to control.

Action steps:

  • Go to the Back Home to the Hill page and carefully study our community expectations. For incoming residential students, read the guidelines for residential life before returning to campus.
  • Sign the Community Commitment stating your full compliance with and commitment to the health protocol. For those unable to make this commitment, remote learning is the only other option.

I am grateful to the people called Trevecca who have given themselves tirelessly this summer to make this reopening possible. They have done this with financial restraints, both personal and institutional. The choice to refund student room and board in the spring semester was a costly move. Our employees have felt the pinch of this decision. One of the reasons that we are working to complete the upcoming semester is that room revenue will not be refundable should we be forced to empty the campus this fall. This anticipated revenue has already been spent on tests for COVID-19, campus cleaning, PPE for everyone, safety shields for offices, hand sanitizing stations, food service staging, classroom technology, increase of our clinic staff, and several other measures of protection. We have not added this cost to tuition. We bear the risk together.  

In my 16th year as President of Trevecca, it occurs to me that Trevecca is built for this kind of challenge. We have always believed that a college education is about much more than knowledge. It is about the formation of character. In a world that is about ‘getting my way’, we call students to love their neighbor. In a world that demands rights, we teach personal responsibility. In a world that is hell-bent on getting to the top, we teach students how to heal the brokenness of those on the bottom. In this moment, we can establish ‘chesed’ with one another. We can create a community of trust, respect, and responsibility. I believe we stand on the edge of a phenomenal character building, formative learning experience. I am trusting the Trevecca community – students, parents, and employees. See you soon. 


Spring 2021 Semester Schedule Announced

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Early Start to Fall 2020 Semester

Traditional undergraduate students at Trevecca will start the Fall 2020 semester early and wrap up classes before Thanksgiving, officials announced in a letter to current and prospective students today. Classes are now set to begin on Monday, Aug. 17 and end on Tuesday, Nov. 24, just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, with no fall break. Originally, traditional undergraduate classes were scheduled to start Sept. 1. 

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The Back Home to the Hill Plan, which outlines specific steps the University will take to keep the campus community healthy in the midst of a global pandemic, included changes to the academic schedule and specified health protocols such as wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and reducing gatherings in common spaces such as dining locations or residence hall lobbies.

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