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March 16, 2020
Good morning everyone,
We find ourselves in uncharted territory this morning and that can be unsettling and stressful. The COVID-19 situation evolved incredibly rapidly over the course of the past week, and it will continue to change this week and in the foreseeable future. Being both prepared and flexible remains the best way to navigate this crisis.
As you know, yesterday afternoon Ottawa Public Health released new social distancing directives, and we reacted quickly to implement them. I am truly glad that most of you are reading this message from home this morning – we are doing all we can to keep our community safe and to contribute to slowing the progression of COVID-19 in Ottawa and across the country.
You might have heard of upcoming announcements from both the Province and the Federal Government. We remain vigilant and prepared to make appropriate decisions in a flexible and proactive manner as the situation continues to unfold. As much as we want to act swiftly, we also must be careful not to react prematurely and only base our actions on confirmed facts and guidelines. I plan to write every day this week to keep everyone informed of new developments as they arise.
I remain confident that we will successfully complete the term through online and other alternative methods of instruction, as appropriate. The Provost has shared with all teaching staff both resources for help to keep on teaching and information on alternative forms of final assessments. Preserving our academic mission in the midst of this pandemic is a powerful symbol of the strength, adaptability and commitment to learning of our institution, and we can all take pride.
We all recognize that a shift of this scale, on a tight timeline, is a significant challenge. As we transition to teaching online, instructors should be pragmatic and realistic, focus on a straightforward approach, and communicate regularly with students and TAs. All instructors can reach out directly to our teaching and learning experts, at this time deemed an essential service, at email@example.com.
In the same vein, we must remain flexible to appropriately mitigate other challenges as they arise. Decisions are being made in real time every day. For example, in order to decrease density in student Residences and give students more flexibility, we are refunding room and meal plan costs on a pro-rated basis for students who choose to return home before March 22.
I want to reassure everyone that international students who cannot go home because of travel restrictions will be taken care of not only to the end of the term but this summer as well. This is the Carleton way – we take care of each other. Once again, I cannot express how grateful I am for the calm, thoughtfulness, and courage our community has shown and continues to show in these uncertain times.
Mitigating the COVID-19 situation to the best of our ability is the primary focus of the entire leadership team and all three of our committees (Steering, Operations, Academic Continuity) are meeting today. In line with new guidelines two of these meetings will be held online and the third will be held in a very large room to facilitate appropriate social distancing measures.
Today, we are working with units to define the minimum in-person staffing levels to maintain the safety of our community and continuity of operations, we are updating travel restrictions; and we are finalizing guidelines for social distancing for front line staff and safe meetings. We will issue this information through appropriate channels before the end of the day.
We are of course continuing to share information and best practices with our sister institutions in Ottawa and elsewhere, the Council of Ontario Universities and Universities Canada, as all universities and colleges across the country are all facing similar issues.
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.
As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, please take care of yourself and each other.
President and Vice-Chancellor