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March 2, 2021
Good morning everyone,
I can’t quite believe, as we enter the month of March, that we have been dealing with the COVID pandemic for a full year. As always, I am deeply grateful for the immense creativity, flexibility and compassion our community has shown in adapting to this extended and challenging public health crisis.
The second wave seems to be slowly receding, but it is difficult to predict when the pandemic will cease to disrupt our lives so significantly. Ottawa is now in “orange,” but there are indications that we might be moving into “red” sometime over the next weeks. With new variants, a possible third wave and vaccine programs off to a slow start, it is unlikely that the spring and early summer will be very much different from this winter.
Accordingly, last month the Carleton University Scenario Planning (CUSP) Working Group and the Carleton Senate determined that while some campus activities might be possible, the majority of summer courses will be delivered online. In the same vein, regretfully, our Spring Convocation ceremonies have to be postponed. Carleton will offer virtual Graduation Celebrations for the Class of 2021 in June – more information to come – and in-person Convocation celebrations will be held at a later time, when it is safe to do so.
As we look towards the fall, we are starting to see messaging by Canadian universities suggesting preparations for a significant return to campus while at the same time emphasizing health and safety. We deeply share our colleagues’ desire to gather in person again and, like them, we also recognize that there are still many open questions at this time. Will the rate of vaccination accelerate quickly enough to support a significant return in the fall? What rules and regulations will be in place with regards to physical distancing or capacity limits? Will international mobility resume?
Since our first CUSP report in May 2020, we have carefully considered an array of factors before making our decisions. We continue to monitor the developing situation very closely. Our decisions will continue to reflect the guiding principles we originally articulated, including prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our community, aiming to offer the best possible learning experience and providing “as much certainty as possible to students, faculty and staff by making and communicating decisions as early as possible.”
Drawing on broad health and safety, operational and legal expertise, we are setting up the appropriate protocols, procedures and mitigation measures – in line with public health guidelines – for a gradual and safe return of faculty and staff to campus in advance of the fall term. Should epidemiological data, vaccination rates and public health recommendations all go in the right direction, we will be ready for a significant return to our beautiful campus.
As discussed at the Carleton Senate last Friday, the most likely scenario for the fall seems to be a gradual and safe return to campus, as public health regulations permit, and a course and program delivery model that allows for maximum flexibility for students. In all likelihood, large classes will continue online for fall 2021, but we anticipate that it will be possible to offer a significant proportion of smaller classes, labs and tutorials in person or in a blended format. We will be providing more specific information regarding our plans, including the development of the timetable for the fall, as the situation continues to evolve.
Finally, as we look for the proverbial light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we continue preparations to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. Work on the Reputation Enhancement Project progresses with the strategy development phase currently underway. Next up is a creative exploration of how Carleton could better present itself visually. Please keep an eye out for an invitation to weigh in on this important and exciting phase.
In closing, I want to acknowledge a successful and impactful Black History Month that started with Martin Luther King III speaking to our community, and saw a number of events and communications celebrating the many contributions and achievements of the Black community at Carleton and in the broader society. These important celebrations continue on March 6 with Black History Month is Every Month – A Black History Celebration led by our great School of Social Work. Let me end with an invitation to the official launch of our fully designed new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan that will take place on March 23.
As always, my sincere thanks for everything you do for Carleton, under what continue to be challenging circumstances. Have a wonderful day!
President and Vice-Chancellor