NDWorks had the opportunity to speak with Mike Seamon, vice president for campus safety and University operations. Here, Seamon talks about working on campus through the past year and a half of the pandemic, the return to campus of many remote workers and what makes Notre Dame strong.
NDWorks: How do you think the last few months have gone?
Michael Seamon: The time has flown by in a blink of an eye while also feeling like it’s been years instead of months. I think it's ironic that it has felt like a sprint to get through all the changes and all the adaptations and all the dynamics of it, yet it has also felt like a long marathon. A sprint and a marathon — that kind of underscores the duality of what it took to get through this.
NDW: What made it feel like a marathon?
MS: I think (it was) the pace of change and the dynamic nature of COVID, all the twists and turns, the change in terrain, so to speak. It was constantly changing every day, every week, every hour. You could not let up. I’ve said this often to others — COVID has been 24/7, 365. It didn’t take the weekends off, it didn’t take the evening off. It was just nonstop, and that nonstop, constantly changing, very dynamic nature of it made it go by so fast, because there was just no reprieve from it.
NDW: You’ve been on campus working the entire time. Students were here last academic year, but that wasn’t always evident. Also, some staff worked remotely. What was the feel of the campus?
MS: Often, the University felt like a big empty park. So many buildings were scaled down in terms of activity. Parking was abundant. It was the first year I didn’t hear any problems about parking because it was so plentiful. It was surreal being in this place that is typically vibrant at different times of an academic year, because it just seemed very empty. The solitude was to a degree interesting, but at the same point Notre Dame is meant to be experienced with one another. The people make up Notre Dame.
NDW: What would you like to say to faculty and staff?
MS: Regardless of whether you worked from home or came in every day, it didn’t matter what you were doing. It took everyone pulling in the same direction to get through this, and that was the most inspiring thing about these last 18 months. I think the University has done a very good job at making sure safety is the top priority for everybody. Everybody’s health and safety was paramount at every turn.
NDW: Is there anything you would like to say to those who worked on campus?
MS: We recognize with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation our faculty and other colleagues whose roles necessitated they come to campus to work. My safety colleagues at Notre Dame Police and Notre Dame Fire were in every day. Building Services was here the whole time, cleaning everything that was being utilized and being extremely diligent in their cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, given the concerns about the possible spreading of COVID. There was campus dining for our students, so food still needed to be prepared. Our facilities and utilities and maintenance colleagues were here as well. Then, of course, there are those who took on new assignments to assist the COVID-19 Response Unit as CRU navigated the pandemic for the University.
NDW: What would you say to remote workers returning to campus?
MS: I think you’ll love it. I think you’ll enjoy seeing your colleagues. I saw that kind of joy among the students at the end of the year after they got vaccinated and they were getting ready for commencement.
NDW: How do you see Notre Dame and the community at large moving forward?
MS: I think the pandemic will prove to be transformational. For what 9/11 was to security and safety, I think the pandemic will be to medical health and public health safety. We are approaching the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 this coming September. We have seen how much the security world has changed since 9/11 over 20 years. I think the medical health and public health element will change for the next five, 10, 20 years.
NDW: What has been the biggest challenge and what has been most encouraging during the pandemic?
MS: I think Notre Dame is at its best when it comes together and I think we proved that in the last 18 months. It doesn’t matter if you worked at home or on campus. It doesn’t matter what your department was. The last year couldn’t have been a reality without everybody coming together. One of our greatest challenges has been to make sure that we are being innovative, open to change and adaptive. It has been a blessing that we all found ourselves here, at this place, in this time serving Notre Dame and serving one another. I am grateful to be on this journey together as we head towards the fall.