The June 2020 to May 2021 period was marked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and our responsibility to manage university operations while navigating these uncertain and fast-changing circumstances.
As the spring 2020 term drew to a close, units worked tirelessly to find new technology and ways to successfully deliver a fully remote 2020-21 academic year. In collaboration with the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) provided instructors with the software, tools and training necessary to create quality online courses. Additionally, as remote work became the norm, IITS worked quickly to obtain microphones, cameras and other essential hardware in limited supply due to global shortages.
Though many within Facilities Management continued to work on site, they also adapted to massive changes, such as preparing empty buildings for an eventual return under entirely new conditions. Along with Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), they assessed, and even reassessed, spaces based on the changing information and requirements of the global pandemic.
In addition to working extremely closely with Facilities on spaces, EHS spent months creating new protocols to follow on campus to minimize the risk of COVID-19.
Like IITS, Facilities and EHS, Campus Security personnel remained on both campuses. Their expertise was increasingly sought to implement new procedures such as for access control required by government. Like their counterparts in other sectors, Security representatives were invited to scores of planning meetings, asked to share their experiences and know-how and help predict what would be required to navigate the pandemic effectively.
Human Resources also went from busy to busier. Paying employees doesn’t pause for pandemics, nor can one postpone vital projects like UNITY — a transformational HR and Financial Services system. Those activities needed to continue despite the demands for novel tools and advice on such matters as remote-work guidelines, accommodations and requests for support on a scale never before seen. And, lest we forget, HR helped new colleagues join our ranks remotely.
Budget and Planning, which includes student residences, food services and the bookstore, incurred an entirely different type of shock: nearly all activities and events were cancelled, and stores, restaurants and residences were temporarily closed. That led to new forms of work: the need for units to pivot into new ways of working, the reorganization of services and the development of completely new offerings like remote event coordination.
The integration of the Department of Recreation and Athletics into the VPSS sector was an exciting change because of the connection with varsity sports and health and recreation services. However, because of the impacts of COVID on sporting activities, 2020-21 was a period of constant adaptation for the team. Members rose to the challenge, finding ways to keep us fit online and train athletes safely when regular rink, court and fields activities were limited by public health authorities.
And what of Sustainability? The global health pandemic in no way invalidates the climate crisis. Increased use of plastic and reduced focus on energy conservation are examples of how it made things worse. Thankfully, Facilities’ Zero Waste team found a way for Concordia to recycle the now ubiquitous procedure masks while the Office of Sustainability helped us launch our Sustainability Action Plan and the Living Lab. We continue to proudly push forward on this front.
While we celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of each unit, it’s important to remember that most regular activities continued. VPSS members forged ahead with maintenance, renovation, cybersecurity, safety assessments, remuneration, budget planning, patrol and other daily tasks. They had to work normally in the entirely novel and challenging circumstances of a global pandemic.
At all times, our team members worked incredibly hard and for that we are tremendously grateful. They did it for the students, for their colleagues and, by many accounts, for their deep appreciation of Concordia. Therefore, to all members of the VPSS family, thank you and congratulations on jobs so well done!
Michael Di Grappa
Vice-President, Services & Sustainability