Editorial: Now is the time to root for KU

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Here we go. The start to the most unusual school year in recent memory is scheduled to begin on Monday when the University of Kansas begins its fall semester.

It will end the longest, most boring, most frightful spring break that many students and staff have ever endured. Remember, that is when they left and basically did not return.

Now, they will return, and many questions will greet them. The Lawrence community, though, ought to make sure something else does as well: A thank you.

Students, thank you for coming to Lawrence to start or continue your academic careers. While these are inauspicious times, we hope that all of you get the full college experience, from classrooms to camaraderie, that allow you to grow in so many important and fun ways.

Parents and families, thank you for trusting Lawrence to be a safe place worthy of housing your children. We hope that you visit often and become one of many great ambassadors across the country and world of what Lawrence and KU have to offer.

Lawrence endeavors to be one of the best university communities in America. We have a lot of work to do this year. The challenges will be new, and at times, unprecedented. A great university community needs to be safe, above all. But it also needs to be stimulating, compassionate, reasoned and an environment that promotes good judgment.

At the beginning of this pandemic, this page noted that we all need to be well-stocked in the three “P’s” — patience, perspective and perseverance. It is still true.

Lawrence is entering a dangerous time that goes beyond the health risks of the pandemic. If we lose patience, perspective or perseverance, this community could become terribly divided. If a surge of students and parties leads to a surge in cases that ruin the ability of local school districts to hold classes, think of the town/gown split that will develop. If, in that scenario, KU somehow figures out how to play football games while high school students are forced to give up their seasons, imagine the hard feelings that will be created and galvanized in this community.

We should begin guarding against that now. Yes, it will be critically important for students to practice safe behaviors. The best thing all of us nonstudents can do is to model good behavior. But our leaders and key organizations also must be prepared to enforce the rules.

We also need to think about how we are going to respond to the inevitable bouts of bad news that will come. We need to adopt a mindset of shared blame and responsibility. Rarely will there be a situation where a single party is to blame. So, let’s avoid that. Students aren’t going to cause every problem we have, so let’s not pick a fight with them. We need to save our punches for the pandemic. A brawl amongst ourselves will do nothing to defeat it.

At times, that will mean offering grace. Let’s be honest, the preparations leading up to KU’s reopening have had shortcomings. But, if we are again honest, we can admit that KU administrators have been given an extraordinarily difficult task. We can give some grace in return.

Grace does not come with a pass, though. The organizations and communities that come out of this pandemic stronger likely will be the ones that use these troubles to correct longstanding problems.

KU has an excellent opportunity on that front. Over the years, KU has turned into an organization that is not naturally transparent, and one that struggles at communication. It will be critical that KU improve on both fronts. We are all taking risks here, and we deserve accurate, timely, unvarnished information to help us make our own decisions.

What KU deserves is our heartfelt desire for its plans to succeed. Not everyone wants a return to in-person classes, but we all ought to want it to work splendidly. KU is correct that a successful return to classes is critical to KU’s finances, critical to the health of the Lawrence economy, and critical to the academic development of students who will be the leaders of future generations.

It remains to be seen whether it will all work. We should change course if it doesn’t, but today we should root like heck for it to succeed. In fact, has there ever been a time more important to root for KU?

Go KU. Stay, KU.

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