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October 13, 2020
Good morning everyone,
I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend and that we were all able to catch our breath and get a little bit of rest before heading into the core of an unusual and challenging fall term.
The second wave of COVID-19 is here and the Province of Ontario is reacting by tightening restrictions. Notably, the government is asking people in Ottawa to only leave their homes for essential purposes, and is mandating daily active screening to come onto campus. We are fortunate that at Carleton, thanks to everyone’s remarkable creativity and outstanding efforts in transitioning our academic activities and services online, we are as ready as can be expected. As always, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all students, staff and faculty for the way we have continued to adapt, with flexibility and compassion, to these difficult circumstances.
This second wave is not a surprise. The Carleton University Scenario Planning (CUSP) report, released on May 11, 2020, is very clear on this point: “COVID-19 is a highly transmissible virus and asymptomatic transmission makes the virus more difficult to contain. Researchers have developed a variety of models to predict the course of the pandemic and none of these models, to our knowledge, anticipate a rapid end to the pandemic. Furthermore, different models using different assumptions and run on data from different jurisdictions all suggest the likelihood of a second and subsequent waves of illness. The primary hope for curtailing the virus is the development of a vaccine; however, it is unlikely that this would occur in the short term.”
I am truly glad that as COVID-19 continues to put an additional strain on all of us, honest conversations about mental health and substance use are surfacing more than ever at Carleton and in the broader society. In the last two weeks alone, our community was involved in Recovery Day Ottawa, The Royal’s Run for Women’s Mental Health, Psychology Mental Health Day, as well as World Mental Health Day 2020. There is no silver bullet, but breaking the stigma so people can reach out and get the help they need and deserve is objective number one. Let’s also remember that speaking about symptoms is insufficient and that we must also talk about root causes – in particular trauma and alienation – and let’s also agree that while addressing existing problems is essential, the most powerful path to making significant headway is prevention. I speak openly of these issues and my own ongoing mental health journey in a recently released interview with higher education expert Ken Steele.
I am especially concerned that, as days become colder and shorter in the fall, mental health issues tend to spike. There is also evidence that as we reach the six-month mark in an ongoing crisis, resilience can start to break down. I worry about this at least as much as I worry about COVID-19 itself. I would like to remind everyone that no one has to suffer in silence and that no one has to suffer alone. Please reach out for help within your own network, and of course make use of the services that Carleton has put in place to support students, as well as faculty and staff.
In this context, we must be particularly conscious of the additional barriers and challenges faced by equity-seeking groups. In the wake of the Kinàmàgawin Calls to Actions and our Coordinated Accessibility Strategy, we are now in the process of finalizing the Recommendations for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Institutional Action developed by the Equity and Inclusive Communities Advisory Group. In addition to providing your input and comments on the Carleton University EDI Action Plan website, please attend our next public town hall on October 14, and please consider taking part in our second annual Inclusion Week, October 19 to 23. Among the many faculty events taking place across the university, I would like to highlight the latest instalment in the fantastic Healthy Cities series of our Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences: Imagining an Anti-Racist City, tonight at 7 p.m.
One tried and true way to keep spirits up is to celebrate our successes in the spirit of community and gratitude. One highlight for our community last week was the release of the Maclean’s University Rankings, which reflect Carleton’s great momentum across all aspects of our mission – notably we place in the Top 5 for: overall student satisfaction, research (SSHRC, NSERC/CIHR), residence life, student awards, residence living, scholarships and bursaries, as well as the overall rankings. Congratulations everyone!
Our next challenge will be to increase our visibility and reputation so that everyone is aware of our significant achievements and impact. Indeed, it is a concern that in Maclean’s and elsewhere, our subjective reputational rankings lag behind our objective rankings. We have a great story to tell and in the wake of the launch of our new and exciting Strategic Integrated Plan, we must invest significant efforts in telling it more sharply and more loudly. Last week, I was thrilled to announce that our inaugural Chief Communications Officer Tony Frost will be joining Carleton from the University of Waterloo. We have also retained the Ottawa-based creative firm Banfield to help us shape our storytelling and reputational enhancement efforts. Banfield will be engaging with our community over the course of the year and a reputational enhancement project website has been designed to support this critical work.
As the fall term progresses, it will be essential that we all continue to connect with each other and support each other in the characteristic Carleton way. We will get through this together.
I wish everyone all the best for a short four-day week!
President and Vice-Chancellor