January 11, 2021

Good morning everyone,

Let me start by wishing everyone a happy new year and all the very best for 2021. I hope that, notwithstanding ongoing public health challenges and restrictions, you found ways to rest and to spend quality time with family and loved ones – in person or virtually – over the course of the holidays.

There is no doubt that we have just completed one of the most challenging years in our history, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether 2021 will be somewhat more manageable. There is no way to know for certain, but as I look at the evolution of the pandemic and the early rollout of vaccines, the most likely scenario is that we must be prepared for a winter term that will look very much like the fall term, followed by a gradual return to better days over the summer and fall terms. Our approach will remain flexible as the situation evolves, but here are some preliminary thoughts on what the coming year may look like.

Winter 2021: The pandemic continues to hit record numbers in Ontario and around the world, and we continue to operate under the guidelines of the ongoing provincewide shutdown. The vaccine program is only in the initial phase of a massive and complex supply chain operation that will unfold over most of 2021. This fall, we demonstrated our capacity to deliver a full semester online and we have also developed skills and gained experience that will serve us well this winter. I encourage all of us to pace ourselves, to show flexibility and compassion – very much including self-compassion – and to take the winter term one day at a time. As the days lengthen and the delivery of the vaccine program unfolds, we will see the light at the end of this long tunnel. Students, please take full advantage of the ongoing compassionate grading options and the many services put in place to support your success through this most unusual year.

Summer 2021: The Carleton University Scenario Planning (CUSP) Working Group is currently considering its recommendation for the summer term. By the time the courses start in early May, the second wave should be past its peak and the vaccination program is expected to be operating at full capacity. Nonetheless, I expect that the majority of academic offerings, but likely not all, will be offered online as it will be too early in the vaccination program to allow for a significant return to campus. It is our plan to take the CUSP recommendation to Senate at the end of January.

Fall 2021: Our focus throughout the late winter and spring will be to prepare for the fall and the 2021-22 academic year. By September, vaccine programs will have been unfolding in Canada and most international jurisdictions for several months. What is difficult to predict is the exact rate of immunization and, consequently, the degree to which we will be able to return to in-person activities. We still have time to gather evidence before we start making decisions for the fall, and these decisions will continue to be made according to the principles we outlined in our first CUSP report that continue to serve us well today. At this time, I am cautiously optimistic about what could be possible by then, but we need more evidence before committing to specific strategies and actions. I will be asking for your patience over the early months of 2021 as we work toward these conclusions.

In terms of challenges and opportunities for Carleton, 2021 will be a critical year for the implementation of our new Strategic Integrated Plan and recent associated action plans including: Kinàmàgawin, EDI Action Plan, Sustainability Strategy, Accessibility Strategy and International Plan. I am confident that Carleton will also continue to build on the remarkable expansion in research and innovation that we have experienced over the past two years, with our annual research funding increasing by an exceptional 50 per cent.

As you know, we have embarked on a Reputation Enhancement Project which will progress to key phases, including brand strategy and creative development, over the course of the winter. This is very exciting as Carleton has a great story to tell and we need to be recognized and appreciated for our significant accomplishments. Raising our reputation to where it should legitimately be will further enhance success across all operations, including, but not limited to, student recruitment, faculty hires, research and fundraising, as well as societal and international impact.

Finally, I want to offer my most sincere congratulations to Prof. Melanie Adrian on her appointment to the Order of Ontario, and to our Chancellor Yaprak Baltacioglu on being appointed to the Order of Canada! It is great to see these honours bestowed on two highly accomplished and dedicated members of our community.

As always, any questions you may have that are not answered by Carleton’s COVID-19 information website and its FAQ section should be forwarded to covidinfo@carleton.ca.

On a personal note, January 1, 2021 marked the mid-point of my five-year mandate as President of Carleton. I want to thank everyone for your support and outstanding work over that time. I am deeply grateful to be part of this amazing community, and to work with all of you to make Ottawa and the world a better place.

As always, with many thanks for everything that each of you brings to the great Carleton community, I wish everyone a great start for our winter term!


Benoit-Antoine Bacon
President and Vice-Chancellor