Stephen Stills, of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (CSN and Y) fame, with the backdrop of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, stated “…you people, have to be the strongest group of people I ever saw.” He prefaced this with “Three days, man, three days.” referring to the three days on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, N.Y. that birthed the Woodstock experience. And I missed it.
This morning, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” CSN’s trademark tune, played on my Pandora selections and traveled me back to that moment when Stills was caught on camera and microphone extolling the virtues of Woodstock Nation. Honestly, while the Woodstock phenomenon still fascinates, they only had to make it through a long, rainy weekend with limited food, absent sanitation, and great bands playing mediocre music due to technical troubles. Nonetheless, it remains a cultural comma in our history.
Stephen Stills never met the Salem Community College family, so he never truly recognized what strength is. We, the SCC family, have had to endure eight surrealistic months (and counting) of COVID-19 restrictions. While colleges may not qualify as essential in emergency management terms, we are essential workers to our students and our community. They depend upon us, instructionally, financially, socially, and supportively.
Instructionally, we made the flip from in-person to remote overnight. Literally. Other colleges curtailed classes for a week to adapt. SCC was already there. Student services could not be deferred beyond a week or two, as students needed their financial support, registration, advising, and all the nuance assistance we provide. Our recruiting teams radically modified their outreach and approach as in-person became two-dimensional via Zoom.
Throughout this COVID crisis, we remain the educational epicenter, cultural hub, and economic facilitator of Salem County. In the late spring and summer, we modeled how to run live instruction as we opened the glass studio and science labs. Our own Oak Singers kept rehearsing online and virtually performed “Like a Mighty Stream” at https://youtu.be/n-f-IVNpky8. Most prolific has been our IT team, small but capable. They were called upon to provide faculty and staff with all necessary technology and assistance, and ensure all of our students had the learning tools they needed. This was yeoman’s work. Add to their workload the upgrade of our phone system to RingCentral, and you can appreciate what we have asked of these folks.
Everyone has contributed. We have asked employees to accept furlough days, position reductions, and to literally “do more with less (time, money, and people).” Never a long-term, viable plan, yet we are now edging into November and this is our reality. Yet, just about everything is getting done. Sometimes it is taking longer, but we are staying on track. This means that the SCC family is ignoring the clock and the calendar, and the intent of furlough, and working for the benefit of the students, the College, and one another.
As president of SCC, I am incredibly proud to say, “You people have to be the strongest group of people I have ever seen.” Thank you on behalf of our students, our community, and the SCC family.