Rolling out key initiatives for our success
I hope you had a good, restful holiday break. We all needed it after 2020. January is almost over already, but I wish you all the best for the rest of 2021.
Unfortunately, the current public health situation in Montreal and elsewhere in the world is a sober reminder that the pandemic continues to be a major challenge. So let me thank you, once again, for helping to get the winter term off to a smooth start despite the curfew and extended lockdown.
While the anticipated distribution of vaccines is injecting some optimism, we need to be realistic that there is much, much uncertainty on the horizon. It’s impossible to predict when and how we will fully transition out of the pandemic. The period ahead will inevitably bring its own set of challenges, introducing different variables and complexities to our decision-making, but perhaps also creating new opportunities.
The months ahead will again test our capacity for adaptation, collaboration and innovation, all of which have been on fine display since last March, as we plan a post-COVID future for Concordia.
In the meantime, we continue to move forward, rolling out some critical projects in the first months of 2021 that speak to the diversity of actions, both administrative and academic, that mark a next-gen university.
Mandatory cybersecurity training
Cybersecurity threats are increasing in both frequency and sophistication on a global scale during the pandemic, and educational institutions are not immune. Because higher education institutions suddenly have a huge proportion of their employees working from home, we’ve become preferred targets for cyber criminals. In the past months, many universities worldwide — including several in Canada — have been crippled and, in some cases, held to ransom by cyberattacks.
We have an outstanding group in IITS and because cybersecurity is one of Concordia’s great research strengths, we’re fortunate to have unique expertise in strengthening our cyber-defences. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that every one of us — everyone — needs to be vigilant by ensuring that we understand and adopt best practices to protect ourselves and our community.
Concordia has developed an Information Security Policy and cybersecurity program designed to protect both institutional data and personal information. As part of the new policy, all faculty and staff members — including me and all members of the senior leadership team — must complete a 20-minute mandatory online phishing training by March 1, 2021. This training is accessible through the Cyber Awareness Training toggle on the MyConcordia portal.
Beginning in late 2020, we also began implementing a new two-step sign-in process for faculty and staff called multifactor authentication, which applies to email access and Microsoft 365 collaboration tools such as Teams. We’re also implementing a new Data Governance Policy that will help us better classify and protect our data.
These measures are essential for Concordia’s security. They’re a top priority for me and must be a top priority for all of us.
Employment equity census
In recent years, various units and departments have collaborated on our efforts to address issues of equity and inclusion among faculty and staff. Our perception is that we have some significant gaps to overcome to make our workforce representative of the larger community we serve. To better understand our reality, we’re asking for your participation in an equity census for all faculty and staff. The census will help us get a more accurate picture of the university community and ensure that the information gathered benefits all employees.
Visioning the future of teaching and learning
The pandemic has opened an important institution-wide conversation on pedagogy, spurring us to more closely examine what methods and approaches we have at our disposal to best foster our students’ success. The Advisory Committee for Teaching and Learning (ACTL), led by the vice-provost of innovation in teaching and learning, with membership from all faculties, the School of Graduate Studies and Student Services as well as students, is in the early stages of developing a longer-term strategic plan for teaching and learning at Concordia.
Consultations with faculty and students will begin in the coming months. These consultations will take place within the faculties to ensure that discussions around pedagogy are informed by disciplinary needs and approaches.
As many of you know, Project UNITY will go live in 2021. I’m very committed to the success of this project, which will be transformational for countless staff, faculty and other employees. It will help us all perform many tasks more efficiently and more securely, freeing up time that we’re currently spending on outdated ways of working. In fact, many of you can probably attest to how much easier your work would have been in the last 10 months if UNITY had already gone live.
Among other things, the new system will allow us to more easily onboard team members, submit expenses, manage research grants and view vacation time banks. In 2020, more than 1,200 Concordians attended Project UNITY information sessions; there will be more such sessions and information to come and I strongly urge you to attend.
Formal training to prepare us to use UNITY will begin in February, and we plan to go live in May. The UNITY page on Cspace is the best place to learn more about this next-gen system that will modernize many key parts of our operations.
Finally, in March 2021, as part of the university’s commitment to transforming its processes to align them with best practices, Concordia will be harmonizing its three different pay cycles to simplify payroll process management and integrate with the new Human Resources Information System’s modules.
It's important to note that this harmonization process will not affect how much any employee is paid, nor will anyone miss a paycheque. It will simply alter which weeks of work some employees’ paycheques cover, so that all Concordia employees will now follow the same pay schedule.
Invitations have already gone out to information sessions where employees who will be changing pay cycles can learn more and ask questions. FAQs will also be available on Cspace in the coming days.
My thanks in advance for your attention to these measures, all of which will contribute in important ways to our success as a next-gen university.
President and Vice-Chancellor