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May 12, 2020
Good morning everyone,
I hope that this finds you well as we settle into our summer term and look forward to the progressive lifting of the current emergency restrictions in Ontario, in accordance with the provincial government’s Framework for Reopening our Province. As always, I urge everyone to put safety and wellness first, and to carefully follow social/physical distancing measures as you go out for food and supplies, or maybe for a bit of fresh air.
As Ontario slowly and progressively reopens, we have to carefully consider what this means for Carleton – both for our summer activities and in our planning for the fall semester. An important step in this process is the release, as of yesterday, of the report of the Carleton University Scenario Planning (CUSP) group. It outlines both guiding principles and recommendations that will help us move forward as the current public health crisis continues to unfold. The report is clear and concise, and I encourage everyone to read it.
The nine guiding principles articulated in the report are designed to inform a values-based decision-making process. As you will see, the first principle is to place the health and wellbeing of students, staff, faculty, and the broader community above all other considerations. Other principles directly speak to the centrality of our academic mission, the needs of our students, equity across student groups, and the need for decisions that are both timely and carefully considered.
The 10 recommendations that close the report are anchored in a careful analysis of epidemiological evidence, public health restrictions, the university context, and an exhaustive review of possible models and scenarios for delivering the fall semester. I would like to thank the members of the planning group for this important work, and for taking the time to consult key stakeholders as an integral part of this process. CUSP remains active and consultations will continue as the situation evolves. As such, the recommendations are neither definitive nor final, as we need to maintain flexibility in this fast-changing environment.
In line with recent signals from the provincial government, the report anticipates that over the course of the summer, some in-person activity – notably in certain research labs, the library, and selected student services – will start to progressively resume on campus. It goes without saying that our plan to slowly reopen the campus, in phased stages, will place the health and wellbeing of our community above all other considerations.
The report is also cautious with regards to the fall, and the very first recommendation clearly indicates that a “normal” fall is extremely unlikely. It reads: “While it might be possible to deliver some academic programming on campus by September, given the uncertainty regarding the course of the pandemic, we recommend that Carleton intensively prepare for the likelihood that courses and programs for Fall 2020 will be delivered online.” The priority for potential on-campus programming – if deemed safe – will be research-based and experiential learning that cannot be achieved remotely. The paragraph that follows adds: “Being prepared to deliver our programs online protects the health of our community, ensures continuity of our programs and fosters equity for all students, regardless of current residency.”
As you will see, the report also offers a number of more specific recommendations, including prioritizing student access to technology; continuing to adapt residences to meet social distancing requirements and thinking about creative online social spaces for students. One important recommendation, in line with a recent message from the Provost and AVP Teaching and Learning, is to further enhance technological and pedagogical support for course instructors.
We are not alone in making plans in this direction and you might have seen recent announcements by McGill, UBC, Simon Fraser, etc. Indeed it is increasingly understood across the sector that, to quote a May 8, 2020 message from University of Montreal Rector Guy Breton: “Almost all Canadian and American Universities are starting to prepare for a Fall that will be mostly online.”
I am absolutely confident that at Carleton we have the talent, expertise and tools to continue to adapt to circumstances, and to offer an outstanding fall semester to all our students. I also hold as self-evident that Carleton – founded in the chaos of the Second World War – has the resilience, creative mindset, ethos of service, and institutional flexibility to emerge from the current crisis stronger and more relevant than ever.
Please ensure that the information you read and share online comes from credible sources like Ottawa Public Health, the Ontario Ministry of Health or the Public Health Agency of Canada, as the spread of misinformation poses a significant risk to the health and safety of our community.
I remain incredibly impressed by our community’s ability to adapt and to make our way through this extended public health crisis. We are all in this together, and I am thankful for everything you do for our community.
Stay safe everyone, and have a great day,
President and Vice-Chancellor