Odyssey reading marks end of Frome quarantine

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Photo by Vasile Chiriac

The current fall Rome class celebrated the end of their two week quarantine period in Italy with a marathon reading of a University of Dallas favorite:  Homer’s “Odyssey.” 

The patient Odysseus’ trials and tribulations were thought to be the perfect story to mark the long-waited opening of the Rome campus’ gates. The marathon reading took place on Sept. 26, on the lovely Due Santi campus in Italy, for approximately 13 hours. 

Although it was located at Due Santi, the event was helped and witnessed by the UD community across the globe. Fifty students, staff, faculty, administrators and alumni aided in the reading of the prose, either in person or over Zoom, and roughly 50 others were in attendance for some portion of the marathon.

Vice President, Dean and Director of Rome Programs, Dr. Peter Hatlie was responsible for the event’s genesis. English professor Dr. Scott Crider was the proponent of the “Odyssey,” in light of the epic’s themes of perseverance through difficult times. Benjamin Gibbs, dean of student affairs for the Rome Program, helped with recruiting readers and more technical aspects of the event.  

Together, they created this international virtual event without any significant breaks in the reading, which Crider saw as the most important aspect in this type of reading marathon. 

Hatlie reported that this event was one of many remedies to the challenges of quarantining for 14 days, and the current indistinctive limbo, or waiting period, we all find ourselves in in these times. He hoped that the “Odyssey’s” themes of patient waiting would resonate not only with the fall Romers, but with the entire community, as much remains uncertain about even the near future due to the coronavirus. 

Crider elaborated on the choice of the book:

“The Age of Covid is one in which the Odyssean virtue of perseverance (the ability to endure yet keep oneself still pointed toward one’s purpose) is paramount, and the 2020 Fromers both have persevered, through two weeks of isolation at home and two of quarantine here, and will need to do so still.”

Gibbs expressed a convergent understanding of the book, drawing similarities between Odysseus’ situation and the class of fall Rome 2020:

“I think the Fall 2020 cohort will see similarities in having to respond to unforeseen challenges, ask for and give assistance, and act prudently if they want to have a transformative semester.”

Gibbs and Hatlie also commented on the Fromers’ compliance with the COVID-19 regulations of masks, social distancing, sanitation measures, and the quarantine. According to Gibbs, these rules were enacted as a response to Italian law or to the University of Dallas-wide COVID-19 policies.

“As a program, we do not think we are asking too much of our students,” Gibbs wrote via email. “[R]ather, we hope our students understand that their encouragement of each other to be safe and well is the foundation of our maintaining classes and travel into December.” 

With only minor instances of non-compliance, some only due to ignorance, on the whole they have exhibited understanding and respect for the regulations.

“In an earlier town-hall meeting with them on Zoom I just asked them to bring their best selves to Rome, and they have certainly delivered on that,” Hatlie wrote via email.

The mark of this major milestone for the fall Rome class was highly celebrated on the Due Santi campus. Two weeks after arriving in Italy, onSept. 27, the fall Rome class finally went into Rome itself.

“We have just returned from the Rome Walking Tour, and the students gazed upon the city they’ve worked so hard to come and see and began to experience its mysteries,” Crider wrote. “Quarantine is over!”

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