By: Ian DeJong | November 15, 2021
At this point in the process of containing the coronavirus disease, Redeemer is making a lot of progress. As of now, there are no COVID-19 cases on campus, students are freely allowed to visit other dorms with a maximum capacity of 25 people, intramurals are open again, and most students at Redeemer may have noticed the disappearance of the arrow stickers on the ground. All these changes, big or small, speak to a new reality at Redeemer University: the end of COVID-19 is coming!
Even outside of Redeemer, as Ontario COVID-19 cases are reducing and Premier Doug Ford plans to lift all restrictions by March of next year, we have reason to be hopeful about the end of COVID-19. This article will provide some important lessons to remember as we enter into the post-pandemic era at Redeemer. The subtitle of this article parodies Fareed Zakaria’s 2020 book, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World, which refers to the global consequences of the pandemic. But my approach will solely focus on our duties as members of a university body, and more importantly, a Christian university body. This article will not provide any prescriptions for how we can combat the virus, but rather, propose certain ideas and measures that may change the way we think about faith and learning in both the midst and aftermath of a global crisis. In addition, the lessons below are fitting for a response to any global issue that jeopardizes an ordinary university experience.
Lesson 1 – Value Critical Thinking in a Crisis
Redeemer’s administration had a difficult task during this pandemic: making countless decisions about the operations of our school while still following the public health regulations of Ontario. While not flawless in their approach, Redeemer executed this task to near perfection. We may have reason to imitate those around us during a crisis, which would then urge us to play it safe and shut down. But, having implemented a number of policies in the last few semesters, Redeemer’s leadership has shown its ability to think critically and design a learning environment that best serves students while keeping them safe.
These changes include our investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the technology to offer hybrid learning and safely welcoming students back on campus; installing UV system in the ventilation system, which prevents a COVID-19 outbreak within the school; allowing sports teams to continue practicing for as long as possible; providing thorough communication about cases on campus and the necessary means to combat those cases; and now, offering a vaccination policy that allows students to continue attending university in person, regardless of their vaccination status. Through this, we have both followed public health guidelines and considered the needs of this community. Even though we sometimes are tempted to follow the status quo in Ontario when finding solutions, it is clear that Redeemer was innovative, strategic, and independent of the crowd, which is fitting for our place in Ontario’s academic community.
Lesson 2 – Add COVID-19 to Curriculums
As we begin to see the COVID-19 crisis in the rearview, it is essential to consider how we will learn from this event. The subject of COVID-19 needs more mention in almost all academic fields, not just in the sciences, but also in the humanities and social sciences.
For politics, we can discuss the effectiveness of lockdown or quarantines. For economics, we may ask what economic policy solutions are most appropriate for workers and families after or during lockdown restrictions? For psychology, how can we cope with the effects of quarantine? For history, how trivial or significant is this event in the grand scope of things? For social work, what does it look like to pay special attention to the marginalized during a global crisis?
COVID-19 may well be the event that shapes and defines this generation of students. Our schools must help us to critically examine how this global crisis has changed the way our world operates and also how the reformed worldview shapes our understanding of it.
Lesson 3 – What about Mental Health?
We have given physical health a lot of attention in the past 20 months. It’s important to consider that tending to mental health may be more important than focusing only on physical health. At this point, most of us have felt the emotional and mental brunt of lockdowns, but very few of us have actually suffered significantly from the virus.
In Ontario, Statistics Canada suggests that adults ranging from 18 to 24 often suffered from depression, anxiety, and PTSD three times more than older adults. This can be attributed to the growing isolation and lack of community resulting from the coronavirus restrictions. Ideally, the Redeemer staff would respond to this by paying attention to their student body and strengthening their mental health while they are bound by restrictive measures. But, policies like a cancelled reading break during a stressful time of year and no increased access to counselling or other services certainly did not help. This part may have been a flaw in Redeemer’s decision-making. While the virus may be over soon, its effects will remain. Thus, the continual mental health crisis needs particular attention from our university administration.
Lesson 4 – Give Thanks!
“Always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
Despite limited freedom and worldwide chaos, there is always room to count our blessings. Embracing gratitude as a way of coping with serious issues is to ask, “Is there anything about this pandemic that may be good for me?” What may be lacking in the Redeemer student body is the continual desire to thank God for his great gifts rather than to make unnecessary complaints.
For example, we can be grateful for our ever-present interconnectedness via social media. We can be grateful for the privilege of living in Canada, a country that has succeeded in preventing the disease from spreading rapidly. We can be grateful that COVID-19 is a very short two-year period in human history, compared to other tragic events like war or economic crashes. We can be grateful for the things that have developed over the last two years because of the pandemic: there has been less environmental pollution, a sophisticated form of online school, a chance for us to value in-person connection, a chance for us to get closer with God, and maybe the discovery of an antidote to snow days (Zoom classes). It goes to show that there is always much to learn as the result of suffering.
As we transition into the post-pandemic era, we can be especially grateful that we are no longer bound by excessive screen time and tiresome digital learning. Above all, we must remember God’s persistent love even through trials like the pandemic era.
In short, Redeemer has had its triumphs and failures in attending to the consequences of COVID-19. When reaching the end of the coronavirus disease, both Redeemer staff and students can applaud their efforts to contain the virus but also continue to seek certain measures that are appropriate for our school in the post-pandemic era.