Paul L. Caron

Friday, October 23, 2020

Faculty And Staff Find Silver Linings Amid Loss And Isolation During COVID-19

The Graphic, Faculty and Staff Find Silver Linings Amid Loss and Isolation During COVID-19:

Caron Graphic PhotoThe pandemic and social distancing precautions bleed into all aspects of life for University members. Health concerns, COVID-19 related deaths in the community and fully remote instruction continue to impact faculty and staff.

Within the Pepperdine community, the University reported 58 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths since March. Pepperdine decided to conduct classes completely online this semester due to continuing health concerns and restrictions.

Pepperdine faculty and staff struggle with feelings of isolation, adjusting to an online format and the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19. Amid the adverse effects of the pandemic, certain silver linings have emerged — more time with immediate family, improved connections with distant friends and peers and a greater sense of gratitude for in-person time with students, friends and coworkers. ...

The Pepperdine community also faced loss during this time, including the death of Professor of Law James M. McGoldrick on May 16 due to COVID-19 complications. Dean of the Caruso School of Law Paul L. Caron said McGoldrick was “an institution at the law school” as the longest-serving faculty member, and his death greatly impacted students, faculty and staff.

“He contacted me on a Saturday right before they were going to be putting him on a ventilator,” Caron said. “He wanted to talk about how he would assign other faculty to finish his course. That story just really hit the faculty — that at that moment, his concern was for his students.”

Caron said McGoldrick’s death caused faculty and staff to be hyperaware of the importance of being cautious, which they must balance against the desire to return to an in-person experience due to the greater sense of community and improved course engagement it offers. ...

The Caruso School of Law gave faculty complete freedom in choosing how to deliver their courses before the administration decided to go completely remote. Caron said many professors struggled to balance the desire to be in person with students against significant health worries.

Caron said one of his utmost concerns as dean this semester is building and maintaining a sense of community through an online format, particularly for first-year students — commonly referred to as 1Ls. The Caruso School of Law prioritized this in initial plans to have all 1L courses in person this fall.

“Our faculty was great, and we had many faculty who were older who nevertheless volunteered to teach on ground because they thought it was such an important component of the school,” Caron said. ...

Caron said he also makes use of digital conferencing to help maintain community among law students through a weekly Bible study he hosts with his wife. This technology has also enabled the Caruso School of Law to secure some “spectacular folks” in the legal field to speak to students who typically would not be able to due to budget or travel constraints, Caron said.

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