Koç University News & Announcements Bulletin

May 2020


May is always one of the busiest, if not the busiest, month of the year. As the spring semester and the academic year come to a close, our days in May are normally marked with several marvelous year-end performances from student clubs, year-end activities of schools and administrative units and the completion of classes.

Alas, this year we are facing a very different kind of May. One of the periods I always look forward to since becoming the President of this wonderful institution is the period between June and September, not just because I love summer - I surely do - but because it is the most bittersweet, tender and beautiful time where we get to say our goodbyes to the graduating class and welcome with an open heart the new cohorts for the new academic year. It is because those topsy-turvy times have been one of the most rewarding in my professional and academic life that I now write with a heavy heart that this summer we are not able to live through that joyful and exciting period.

We already made the decision for all classes for Summer Semester 2020 to be conducted via remote online instruction (except for School of Medicine Intern Program and School of Nursing Summer Clinical Courses). We also activated a new Task Force, 'Return to Campus Task Force’, the primary responsibility of which is to ensure and execute the effective and safe transition of all university operations back to normal. The Task Force is currently working with various schools, colleges and other units to draft detailed and planned roadmaps for gradual, phased transitions from our current state to our ‘new normal’ state.

Our first order of business in our plan is the limited and controlled resumption of experimental research and scientific efforts in our research laboratories. Koç University faculty, students and staff have been doing amazing work on multiple research efforts, so far 42 projects and counting, directly targeting the COVID-19 problems and we need to continue these accelerated efforts, as well as many other experimentally based scientific research projects, in order to ensure the continuity of our primary educational and research mission. Our Task Force continues to evaluate and assess the current situation regarding the COVID-19 and our plans to reopen laboratories and return to our Rumelifeneri campus for faculty and staff remain dependent upon changes in the COVID-19 situation and guidance we may receive from the Council of Higher Education (YÖK), Ministry of Health and other governmental bodies.

As I had mentioned earlier about how this month would have been, right about now we would all have been preparing for the most important annual event for our university, the Commencement Ceremony, previously scheduled to take place on June 13th, 2020.

To the graduating class of 2020, I cannot understate how disappointed I am that we are not able to hold our Commencement Ceremony this June. Given the current COVID-19 situation we are facing globally, it is impossible to safely hold a gathering of this size in June on our campus. I am heartbroken for our graduates-to-be and their families who are not able to enjoy our wonderful campus and experience the grandeur of the graduation ceremonies.

It goes without saying that we are determined to honor our graduates and families in alternative ways in the future. As to how we might be able to do this, I wish I had a definitive answer; however, we are still immersed in and surrounded by a lot of uncertainties. Therefore, we are only able to make short-term plans where we can evaluate each step with due diligence and allow ourselves as much flexibility as possible so that if circumstances change, we can adapt swiftly and decisively.

Whenever large, in-person events such as a Commencement Ceremony, are officially deemed safe by government authorities, we are determined to consider proceeding with alternatives for celebrating the success of our 2020 graduating class.

“Without labor nothing prospers.” – when Sophocles said these words more than two millennia ago, he could not have been more correct . . . As we all had to change our way of work and adapt to a different modality of conducting our business, manufacturing had to halt around the globe, with a resultant massive impact on the livelihood of workers and economies of countries across the globe. Thus, recognition of the 'International Worker's Day' this year on May 1st was all the more meaningful as it not only signified unity and solidarity but it also brought with it better news of the entire world slowly beginning to ease down on crippling lockdowns and preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am sure all of you can agree with me that every celebration during the times of COVID-19 definitely carries a new and special meaning. One of the most important of them all is when we celebrated International Nurses Day on May 12th, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth, the founder of modern nursing. Since this year is the 200th anniversary of Nightingale's birth, International Nurses Council and World Health Organization deemed 2020 as the International Nurses Year.

Nowadays, as we are struggling against the global COVID-19 pandemic, our nurses are fighting at the forefront with their hearts and soul. Lockdowns have not taken away from our own School of Nursing to organize a very timely online symposium, discussing Nursing during COVID-19, attended by almost 1000 participants.

The Chairperson of the Board of the Vehbi Koç Foundation Mrs. Semahat Arsel, who have made very generous contributions to nursing as a profession and the development of nurses in Turkey, reflected all of our sentiments in her message this year. She stated: 'I have witnessed many times their unique efforts in the recovery of our patients, the vital roles they have assumed and how they work with an exemplary spirit of responsibility. It is thanks to our nurses that we can still dream of a happy and healthy future during these unpleasant times. I sincerely congratulate the Nurses Day and present my gratitude to our nurses, who perform one of the most sacred professions that play a crucial role in healing many patients.'

The month of May this year also blessed us with the combination of Bayram Holidays, preceded by one of the most important dates for our Republic.

May 19th, Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth & Sports Day, is the day on which the founder of our Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, landed in Samsun to start the National War of Independence and the process of the founding of Modern Turkey in 1919.

In one of his addresses, Atatürk stated: 'I was born on May 19th’. On that day that he was ‘born’, a bright new sun started shining on our country, much of which was then under occupation of enemy forces . . . It was on that day that Atatürk arrived at Samsun and started the war of independence of the people of Anatolia, that set a lasting example for all people everywhere yearning to be free . . .

The fact that Atatürk gifted this important day to the Youth importantly underscores the notion that the future of our country is indeed entrusted to them.

Our young generation are temporarily deprived of the university environment where the appointment between generations is manifested in its richest form, with their lives disrupted at an age during which they develop the most due to the challenging times we are going through. They shall nevertheless be the architects of our tomorrows. At Koç University, we continue to do our part by striving harder than ever for excellence in education and scientific research so that we can equip our students with the best foundations upon which to secure our future.

Our Office of the Dean of Students and Communications Directorate put together a wonderful online youth festival with a full line up of performances from our student clubs including a celebrity guest, a panel on the lesser known facts about May 19th and tae-bo and pilates workouts, finishing off with a jazz concert all the way from Brazil. I was happy to relay my message to all our community and invite everyone to once again realize the meaning and importance of this day.

We wrapped up May with the Ramadan Bayram festivities. One of our most beautiful traditions is the fact that friends, loved ones and families embrace each other and always get together, even by putting aside past resentments and animosities during Bayram holidays.

Although this year we could not fully enjoy these traditions that have been the cornerstone of solidarity and unity for our society for centuries, I hope you did not miss out on the joy and celebration of these holidays and used the wonders of the digital world to not allow COVID-19 to stop us from celebrating with all our loved ones, far or near.

As we gradually enter the normalization period, please continue to be cautious, stay home as much as possible, keep your social distance and remain healthy, take care of yourselves and your families . . . I cannot wait to see things go back to normal when I hope to see you all on our beautiful campus . . . 

My best wishes and regards to you all,

Umran Inan