Vice-Chancellor’s blog: Oh, the lovely fickleness of an April day!
W. H. Gibson was right, April weather is so unpredictable. One moment there is brilliant sunshine, only to switch to freezing rain faster than you can say “digital examination.” No, nothing is as usual, especially this spring. Some mornings it feels like the only thing you can be sure about is the weather, but then you’re reminded, it’s April.
We’ve all made a lot of changes in our lives and our work, which few of us ever imagined possible. Now, slowly but surely, the unfamiliar has somehow become familiar. I still imagine I’m going off to work every morning and, in my head, I’m still going home after a day’s work. You adapt to these new ways of meeting and working together. Get used to broadband congestion in the afternoons, with two working stay-at-homers and a restless teenager in the house. Accept when your house pet makes ear-splitting demands of its humans and satisfied doing so, even in the middle of the day.
At home, it’s not easy to compensate for a hello in the hallway, coffee break chitchat and small talk before and after an IRL meeting. The spontaneity of an unexpected meeting. Or how to substitute for the interaction during a conversation when the person speaking is in the same room. Talking with them, not to them. The deafening silence after a meeting when everyone leaves the virtual room.
There is something very human about longing for one’s place of work. For colleagues. For our students. To be back in a work-related social context. It’s perfectly natural to want to be in a proper work environment to be able to focus on your job. You miss that creaky office chair. Your familiar keyboard. The sound of footsteps in the hallway. The whirr of the ventilation system. The silence when it switches off, a reminder that you’re there longer than planned. A knock on the door that interrupts you for the umpteenth time. A spontaneous question. I can even miss interruptions – they gave me breaks I hadn’t noticed I’d taken or needed.
Yet, I realise we’ll have to miss it a little while longer. We must persevere in taking our collective responsibility. That those of you who can work from home do just that. This helps those who must be at work because their work doesn't allow for anything else. If you absolutely must be on campus, keep physical distance to each another. Respect the recommendations we’ve all been given. Those who know better than I do – about what we’re at risk of being exposed to – they’re saying that it’s not over, not by a long shot. That’s something I just have to accept.
At the same time, I encourage you to keep in touch with your colleagues. We need one another, we’re only human. Even in subjects that are "solitary by nature" – as a co-worker once explained when I wondered why co-authoring of research papers was conspicuously missing in that field. Accept invitations to digital coffee breaks, join colleagues in Zoominaries and for Teams lunches. Go for a walk together via FaceTime. Host a brainstorming party in Blackboard Collaborate. Okay, what you do outside of working hours is not my business, but I have heard that AW can also be arranged remotely.
On Thursday, we will celebrate Valborg (Walpurgis Night). Together, but then again not. I will be at Örebro Castle along with our county governor, our director cantorum and one of Örebro Student Union’s vice-presidents, to lead the live streaming of our online Valborg celebratory gathering. It won't be like usual, of course, but I think it will be wonderful. I am extremely proud of all those who had the courage to sit in front of the computers to contribute to our spring choir. This idea apparently inspired others, not the least Swedish Radio. That's flattering! Welcome in joining us online Thursday 30 April at 21:00 at oru.se/distansvalborg. It will be great!
In my garden, tulips, narcissus, and white pearl hyacinths have made their way from the frozen earth and through last year's dried flower stalks. The plum and cherry trees are in full bloom. This year we can’t really accuse spring of being hesitant. I think she wants to encourage us to catch a glimpse of her beauty, in today’s uncertainty. Because after the rain comes sunshine – apparently even some snow. However, the order is uncertain. Flowers are coming into bloom, despite the threat of frostbite. And we, we'll make it through this spring also. Together.
Translation: Jerry Gray