Dear University of Guelph Community Members:
As the days are getting warmer and with summer approaching, I hope that all of you are finding some time outside of work to rest, relax and even be with friends and family -- albeit from a safe distance.
I am sure that, like me, many of you are eager to return to campus. I am happy to report that we are developing comprehensive plans for a gradual, phased approach for returning to work and for the fall semester.
Please keep in mind that we are dealing with a complex, ever-evolving situation. As we have seen in other parts of Canada and the world, the public health situation can change quickly, which could then prompt the University to modify and change its plans accordingly.
The University of Guelph aims to balance our commitment to the health and safety of our campus community with our commitment to academic and research excellence and an enriched student experience. We are planning for a "hybrid" fall semester, which means that some courses and activities will be taught and hosted in-person and some will be offered remotely. This approach will allow us to combine high-quality teaching and research with our renowned student living and learning experience. And, of course, it will allow everyone to enjoy some of U of G's famous campus food!
Outside of the classroom, we will continue to provide excellent student services and supports including experiential learning, co-ops and internships, clubs, athletics, and extracurriculars and residence programs. Some of these will be offered virtually and others in-person.
We are still working on various plans for creating and delivering the fall semester, involving consultations with numerous teams and dozens of people across campus. We are working closely with our employee groups and the council of academic chairs, and we regularly seek advice from our own expert epidemiologists about return-to-work plans.
Given the many logistical challenges, we will need to work even more collaboratively and effectively this fall semester. Physical distancing requirements mean that the look, scope and feel of our campus will be very different, and the planning and work to make this happen will be significant. The lists of tasks are long and complex, from organizing thousands of classes and classrooms to modifying residences, food services, libraries, and research and work spaces.
Through it all, we remain united in our goal of providing an excellent working, learning and living experience, while ensuring the health, safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff. We communicate regularly with government and public agencies, and we are ensuring coordination among our campus housing, physical resources, hospitality and other services to ensure we follow ministry and public health regulations.
Gradual Return to Campus for Faculty and Staff
I want to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication, especially during recent weeks. Your flexibility, creativity, support, compassion and patience have been appreciated greatly. Together, we have demonstrated our deep commitment to students and colleagues by moving quickly to provide many University services remotely. I know that many of you are eagerly anticipating returning to campus even as others view returning to work with some anxiety.
I want to assure you that we are developing a comprehensive, safe protocol for students, faculty and staff to follow during phased reopening of our campuses.
Like other universities in Ontario, U of G awaits information from the provincial government about when we can begin a broader, gradual return to work. Keep in mind that we remain under a provincial state of emergency until May 29, and that this situation could be extended.
Earlier this week, the government announced Stage 1 of a three-stage approach for reopening the province. Stage 1 does not include universities, and we are still awaiting details about some services announced in Stage 1, including day camps and day cares.
We will continue to work closely with government and public health agencies and will communicate developments and new information with you as soon as they become available.
For now, staff and faculty able to work from home will continue to do so. Some U of G employees have already returned to work on campus pursuant to earlier government announcements.
Once universities are permitted to begin reopening, U of G employees who are required to return to campus for work will be notified by their supervisor.
The University has developed guiding principles for fall 2020 planning, as well as program and course operational parameters, that are available online.
The University also offers numerous services and resources to support employee mental health and well-being.
Once again, please remember that we are dealing with a complex and fast-changing situation, so we may need to modify plans accordingly.
During the coming weeks, we will share plans about how the University will phase in the research enterprise. Meanwhile, U of G research will continue to operate according to guidance provided by the Office of Research. Any research involving physical use of U of G-operated facilities must be approved through the internal adjudication process for time-sensitive and/or critical research. Details and more information are available on the Office of Research web page.
Once again, I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your resiliency and your commitment to the University during this unprecedented global pandemic. I am continually reminded of the strength of the U of G community, a source of energy and inspiration for all our community members during this challenging time.
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)