May 4, 2021
Good morning everyone,
We made it to the end of the winter term and the 2020-21 academic year! It was certainly the most challenging year on record, but we got through it as a community. I want to start by extending both my thanks and congratulations to students, faculty and staff on this remarkable accomplishment.
As we head into the summer months, I hope we can all find some time to rest, recharge and recuperate. Of course, the summer is also an opportunity for students to advance their studies. With the pandemic, the summer term has become more popular and our five faculties have adapted to the demand with a broad array of exciting courses. Already, over 13,000 students have signed up for online summer courses. I wish everyone a successful summer term!
The question on everyone’s mind is what will the fall look like? After several weeks of careful research, discussion and consultation, the Carleton University Scenario Planning (CUSP) Working Group has delivered its final report for fall 2021 and put forth its recommendations, which were confirmed by the Carleton Senate at its meeting of April 30. In summary, like other Canadian universities, we are preparing for a safe and gradual return to campus in fall 2021. A significant proportion of courses – in particular seminars, labs, experiential learning and smaller classes – are expected to be offered on campus in a safe way, but online options will also be available to provide flexibility.
The fall 2021 CUSP report is a fully public document, in line with our ongoing commitment to making decisions in real time and communicating them in a transparent way. Based on the careful analysis of multiple factors, CUSP concluded that the COVID landscape will look quite different in September 2021, compared to April 2021. The most likely scenario for fall 2021 is that increasing rates of vaccination will lead to much-reduced infection numbers. Public health restrictions – based on cases and health-care system capacity – should progressively be lifted as the number of cases decline. This would allow for a significant return to on-campus activity in fall 2021. By winter 2022, vaccination programs should be complete, and we can anticipate a return to essentially normal campus activity.
While most students are eager for a return to face-to-face learning, courses will only be delivered on campus if public health authorities deem them to be safe. Further, international students may not be able to participate in on-campus activities due to delays in student visa processing. Consequently, enhanced online options will be needed to accommodate this group. The guidelines that CUSP recommends for academic program planning can be summarized as follows:
- Ensure that there are both face-to-face and online learning opportunities at all levels of every program.
- Plan classroom capacities in line with physical distancing requirements for face-to-face learning, and online delivery for all class sections with more than 60 students.
- Prioritize courses for face-to-face delivery based on learning outcomes, pedagogy and choice for students.
- Provide individual faculty and staff with reasonable accommodations where needed for medical, family status or other human rights grounds.
The key principle underlying these guidelines is flexibility to adapt to the situation as it evolves. Pivoting from face-to-face classes to online learning is significantly easier than trying to add in-person learning to courses that have been planned for online. Preparing our academic program in this way will allow us to deliver safe on-campus learning by implementing physical distancing as required or pivoting to fully online delivery if necessary. These guidelines are also meant to provide flexibility for individual students, faculty and staff.
Please note that CUSP is part of a broader planning ecosystem that has developed at Carleton over the course of the pandemic. The Return to Campus Working Group is responsible for coordinating the safe and gradual return to campus and they are currently engaged in consultations with the community. The Carleton University Flexible Arrangements Working Group is consultatively developing guidelines for flexible work arrangements during the transition back to campus and post-pandemic. These three groups are working closely together in order to ensure that Carleton’s transition back to campus is thoroughly planned, safe and successful.
And as recently announced, Carleton’s Health and Counselling Services has begun booking appointments on campus for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, for eligible people aged 40 or older.
While implementation of our new Strategic Integrated Plan is expected to slow down somewhat over the summer months, a few important initiatives are reaching milestones. The co-chairs of the New Names for New Times initiative have recently launched this important process, which aims at adopting new names for three of our main campus buildings in order to better reflect our diversity and commitment to inclusion. As well, the Reputational Enhancement Project continues, and results from the recent survey on our visual identity are informing the next steps of creative development, with more to come soon.
In closing, I want to highlight some notable individual honours that members of our community have recently garnered – please join me in congratulating Prof. Lenore Fahrig on receiving a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and students Helen Thai and Felicity Hauwert for receiving a McCall MacBain Scholarship and a 3M National Student Fellowship, respectively. Congratulations also to all the winners of the 2021 Carleton Achievement Awards!
Have a wonderful day everyone,
President and Vice-Chancellor
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