Robert J. Zimmer

(Photography by Jason Smith)

A message to our community

President Zimmer addresses readers about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Chicago’s eminence and distinctiveness are rooted in our commitment to providing our students with the most rigorous and empowering education and to providing our faculty with the research environment that will support their most original and impactful work. This has always been realized through key values that inform every aspect of our education and research activities: freedom of inquiry and expression, engagement of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, constant intellectual challenge, rigor of analysis, and seriousness of intellectual purpose. Over the past 130 years our University has faced numerous challenges, and through them all the University’s commitment to these values has endured.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its far-reaching societal impact around the globe, poses significant challenges for the University through its direct impact on the collaborative and engaged teaching, study, scholarship, and investigation at the heart of our work. The work that traditionally takes place in our classrooms, libraries, and laboratories has been temporarily replaced by remote work and learning. This has been a difficult transition for our students and their families, as well as for our faculty and staff. Nevertheless, members of the University community—on campus and around the world—have responded swiftly and creatively to ensure that the University continues to fulfill its mission while protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, and acting responsibly in the face of the public health challenge our societies confront.

Using a range of technologies, faculty and students have found new ways to cultivate and sustain vigorous argumentation and debate. Teams at the University of Chicago Medicine and in other areas of the University have played critical roles in combating the pandemic at the local, state, national, and global levels. The University has launched programs to support our neighbors on the South Side of Chicago, whose lives have been deeply affected by the pandemic and its economic and social consequences. We have reaffirmed our deep commitment to making our transformative, empowering education accessible to the most talented students independent of their financial need.

Around the world, the community of UChicago alumni, parents, and friends is showing similar resilience, seriousness of purpose, and commitment to having a positive impact on society and the world. To one extent or another, all of you have been affected by, and are responding to, the COVID-19 pandemic in your lives and work: as health care professionals, as educators, as leaders in the public and private sectors, and as informed and engaged citizens. All of us on campus take pride in your collective contributions as the world faces this pandemic.

Finally, I am deeply grateful for the generosity and solidarity that have marked the University community’s response to this crisis. Many of you have supported the efforts of the University’s frontline health care workers, both financially and by providing medical equipment and supplies; you have contributed to our new Partnering for Community Impact initiative, enabling us to do more to support our South Side neighbors; and you have invested in the Odyssey Scholarship Program and other aid initiatives, helping address the increased needs of current and incoming students.

Your dedication to the University of Chicago and to the ongoing task of preserving and realizing its mission through our enduring values has long been essential to this institution’s scholarship, students, and impact on the world. Today, that commitment means more than ever as we work to meet the challenges confronting all of us. I thank you for your continued engagement and support, and hope you and your families are well and stay safe.