A look at what’s next
I hope you and those close to you are doing well as deconfinement rolls out in Quebec.
As we reach the beginning of August, I want to provide an update on our return to campus and a high-level look at what to expect as the start of the 2020-21 academic year approaches with health and safety continuing to be our top priority.
Return to campus proceeding smoothly
Thanks to many of your efforts, the first steps we’ve taken toward a gradual return to campus have gone well.
In line with general public health guidelines and specific recommendations for universities from the CNESST and IRSST, we’ve implemented mandatory training and self-evaluation of personnel returning to campus, the use of face coverings and PPE, and the sanitization and use of shared spaces such as stairs, elevators and eating areas. The Environmental Health and Safety team has worked tirelessly to provide the necessary protocols, training and support, including making available a set of COVID-19 Workplace Safety guidelines, housed along with a wealth of other information on the Cspace Return to campus page.
As described on the research website, we’ve now re-opened more than 180 labs in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, fine arts and humanities, successfully delivering on our objective to have the majority of the labs requiring onsite access open by the end of July.
Since July 6, faculty members have been able to use their offices to prep for the fall term and the Library has fulfilled close to 550 requests for contactless pick-up of physical materials.
High-level fall preview
As you know, our fall term will be mostly online. Many full- and part-time faculty recently participated in the important assessment of which key teaching and learning activities should take place on campus this fall. Thank you for the creative solutions you proposed to prioritize lab and studio access that supports both student health and academic success.
As part of the evolving picture of what fall will look like, a working group, which includes faculty and staff, is looking at how we can creatively and safely make use of some of our green spaces and street-level auditoria on both campuses to enable activities targeted to our students. This includes initial plans to open the newly completed Applied Science Hub on the Loyola Campus. We expect to announce more about our plans in mid-August.
Because we want to prioritize campus access for our students, we’ve also taken the difficult decision not to hold external public events, such as academic conferences, on campus this fall.
Consistent with our position to date, the vast majority of our personnel will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. However, in light of the government’s recent decision that large organizations can — as a maximum, not an objective — bring up to 25 per cent of their workforce back to offices, we are exploring different scenarios for a limited, gradual return to campus. Our priority in these discussions is to support teaching and research across the university by ensuring that students and faculty have access to the essential services for their success.
These scenarios take into account the personnel needs and work practices of different units as well as the health and safety layout of our buildings. It is important to emphasize that, if and when we begin gradually to welcome more employees back to campus, our approach will take into consideration the special circumstances of our colleagues. No one in a vulnerable health category will be expected to be physically present on campus during that phase of re-opening.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the heads of our unions for participating in the recent “lessons learned” exercise with regard to our experience of the pandemic. The willingness to collaborate across all sectors of the university is, I believe, one of our great strengths at Concordia. I look forward to reading the final summary of the lessons learned and sharing key findings with you as we look forward to making important future strides for the university.
Transitioning from crisis to continuity
A related point in this context is that, as part of the next step in our COVID-19 response, we’ve struck a new planning oversight committee, the Operations Continuity Coordination Group (OCCG). Co-chaired by Anne Whitelaw, interim provost and vice-president, academic, and Roger Côté, vice-president of services, the OCCG includes faculty representation and is comprised of seven working groups.
Working closely with the academic leadership, the OCCG is engaged with planning, coordination and implementation of actions to ensure the ongoing delivery of the university’s key functions in teaching, research, student, faculty and staff services, enrolment and community services. This includes how and when to proceed with re-opening or, if necessary, shut down activities should the public health situation change.
As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to update the community on developments. Beginning the week of August 10, we will hold another set of virtual information sessions for managers, where we will be happy to take your questions and address your concerns.
Please take some vacation time
Finally, if you haven’t already taken some well-deserved vacation time this summer, I encourage you to do so to disconnect, recharge and refresh. It has been an extremely hectic four months for all of us, and we all need to gather our energy as we gear up for a unique and exciting fall term.
Be well and stay safe,
President and Vice-Chancellor