August 10, 2021
Good morning everyone,
It’s great to be back to work after some much-needed downtime in July. I hope that everyone has had the chance to rest after what has, no doubt, been the most challenging year of our history. Looking back at 2020-21 and all the disruption we have faced through the COVID-19 pandemic, I cannot find the words to convey the depth of my appreciation and admiration for all the ways that we have creatively adapted to safely and successfully maintain our academic mission and operations. We can all take pride in our collective achievements, which were made possible by the deep collegiality and compassion that characterizes our community.
A highlight of the summer is that tentative collective agreements were reached with both the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA), representing professors, instructors and librarians, and OPSEU Local 404, representing Campus Safety Officers, Special Constables, Communication Officers and Student Safety Patrol employees. I want to thank all negotiating teams and everyone involved for successfully coming to these agreements during these difficult times.
Looking at the academic year ahead, we are continuing to monitor updates from the Government of Ontario as the province continues to implement its reopening plan, now in Step 3. We are moving forward with our own plans to prepare for the safe and gradual return of staff and students for the fall term. All units in phase 3 have finalized their plans and are ready to return to campus on August 23 so that we can start providing face-to-face support for our students. The Return to Campus working group will offer a further series of information sessions throughout August for members of the university community.
Courses that have been scheduled to be delivered in person and/or online will proceed as planned. Notably, we have scheduled all in person classes with sufficient space for social distancing, and masks will be required as per government regulations. If the situation allows, we will look to safely increase on-campus opportunities for students throughout the fall term in line with public health guidelines.
Our amazing Facilities Management and Planning staff have been hard at work ensuring that all of our buildings have updated ventilation systems, rigorous water testing protocols, signage, traffic flow, hand sanitizing stations and new cleaning protocols in advance of units returning to campus. We have identified capacity limits for our buildings and spaces, should they be required, and are setting up an Ambassador program to provide encouragement to the community to follow all public health guidelines.
We are also preparing to launch our new COVID-19 screening tool, cuScreen, which has been developed in partnership with Thrive Health Inc., a leading Canadian health care technology company with expertise in protecting personal health information. This investment in our community’s safety was necessary as our current system did not have the capacity to scale up to the level of campus activity we are expecting. cuScreen has been fully reviewed by our privacy office and information security team and we are setting up an FAQ page to answer some common questions about this new system – more information will be coming soon.
It is great to see that vaccination rates across Ontario and Canada are very high. Our own data indicate that the vast majority of our students, faculty and staff will be vaccinated in time for the fall. Based on the recent recommendation of Ottawa Public Health (OPH), we have made the decision to require students who participate in activities that carry a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission to be fully vaccinated. These activities include living in residence, engaging in varsity/competitive sports and participating in music performance instruction. The University will also require all members of the Carleton community to self-declare their COVID-19 vaccination status as recommended by OPH.
For everyone’s safety and for the continuity of our academic mission and operations in the face of the Delta variant, we urge everyone to get immunized against COVID-19 as soon as possible. Over the next few weeks, we will further encourage vaccination through a campaign featuring faculty, staff and students. Our Health and Counselling Services is preparing to run additional drop-in vaccination clinics in mid-August and will continue to run clinics during residence move-in and orientation week, as well as throughout the early fall.
I am hopeful that once we get over the understandable hesitation of returning to campus after more than a year away, we will again come to fully enjoy the pleasures of seeing each other in person and of feeling the wonderful energy of the fall term. Over time, we will return, safely and gradually, to all that makes university life on the beautiful Carleton campus so interesting, meaningful and rewarding.
Have a wonderful day everyone,
President and Vice-Chancellor