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Board of Governors and Senate notes: January 2022

Concordia President Graham Carr delivers campus return update to Senate and the Board of Governors
February 10, 2022

Graham Carr updates Senate on recent Concordia news

Concordia President Graham Carr welcomed Senate members to their January 21 virtual meeting. He reported:

  • The community was shocked and saddened to learn of the recent passing of two Concordians:
    • Justin Powlowski, associate vice-president of research, strategic initiatives and partnerships, and assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, in December
    • Sean Gordon (BA 06), a graduate program assistant and former Stingers varsity athlete, in January
  • Convocation ceremonies scheduled for February 16 and 17 have again been delayed
  • The John Molson School of Business student delegation finished first overall at the annual Jeux du Commerce case competition, while five of six John Molson teams earned podiums at the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition
  • Space Concordia‘s rocketry division secured its largest funding ever, $120,000, from the Stardust Alliance; the funds will help the team promote STEM to Indigenous and rural communities
  • Nadia Myre, assistant professor of studio arts, won the 2021 Prix Louis-Comtois
  • Alumnus Barry Bultz (BA 69) was named an officer of the Order of Canada
  • Businessman and former Loyola College basketball star George Lengvari (BA 63) pledged a $1-million gift to support varsity basketball
  • Gaby Ajram (BA 71) and Genevieve Dabrowsky-Ajram (BA 71) donated $1 million for Concordia’s Beat the Odds and Student Emergency and Food Fund
  • Molson Coors pledged $125,000 over five years for bursaries for Black students
  • Beginning January 25, gender identifiers will be removed from appearing on student records

Campus update

Carr acknowledged that the last many months have been difficult, stressful and frustrating for all. There are diverse range of opinions on the subject, and universities across Canada are facing the same tough decisions. He provided an overview of Concordia’s plan in advance of the return of in-person classes beginning February 3:

  • Concordia administrators are trying to balance competing views and remain mindful of health guidelines
  • Concordia was the first Quebec university to announce that its winter term will begin with online-only courses, and it modified its plan to return, to February 3, the first day of its academic week that week
  • The Government of Quebec considers university education an essential service and mandated that all universities return between January 17 and the week of January 31
  • The later return allows:
    • faculty time to properly plan and prepare their courses
    • Concordia to observe what worked well for universities that returned earlier
    • an appropriate buffer for international students, who had to be in Canada by January 19
    • a short period of three weeks before reading week
  • Campuses are still open for research, libraries and other functions; about 2,000 students per day have visited the libraries in January
  • Concordia has closely followed provincial and city health guidelines
  • All faculty and staff were given priority to receive boosters
  • As recommended by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, procedural masks are obligatory on campus and in classes; some staff, such as those in health services, are using N95 or KN95 masks; physical distancing will not be required
  • Not all staff will return to campus February but there will eventually be a gradual return, as there was in fall 2021
  • The university had already undertaken measures to ensure suitable air quality
  • Concordia is working hard to accommodate students, such as by offering the late disc option until the end of the winter 2022 term and continuing the new short-term absence policy
  • The university has recommended that faculty follow best practices and record their lectures
  • The Centre for Teaching and Learning has done an admirable job providing tools for faculty and students to transition to digital teaching and learning

Carr thanked Sandra Gabriele, vice-provost, innovation in teaching and learning, and all faculty for their hard work in this area.

“I believe Concordia has really had a very impressive track record in responding to the particular concerns of the community,” he added. “We are committed to try to be as open as possible about the decisions that we are taking.”

Gram Carr’s report to the Board focuses on campus return

Chair Helen Antoniou welcomed the Board of Governors to its January 28 virtual meeting.

Carr added to his written report and what he mentioned at Senate:

Carr then summarized Concordia’s approach to its on-campus return on February 3. In addition to what he told Senate:

  • Concordia’s decisions have been based on a core matrix: government directives; health guidelines; feedback from the Concordia community; exchanges with other Quebec and Canadian universities; balancing compassion with being fair, equitable and consistent; following its research mission; ensuring a vibrant student experience; keeping campus as safe as possible; a willingness to make adjustments
  • The university has followed a suite of support and accommodations, including: providing clear instructions to faculty and students; delivering targeted communications; offering academic support; a full set of guidelines and resources from CTL; increasing the number of teaching assistants
  • A committee was formed to review faculty requests to teach remotely due to health issues
  • Concordia has regularly reached out to the university community through meetings, town halls and public messages
  • Like every other university, Concordia has a responsibility to deliver the semester

Carr concluded by adding that the university has had to keep in mind that some students have not been able to take in-person classes for two years. He believes that Concordia has been prudent and has set a clear benchmark for best practices for the future.

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