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Fall outlook: Update on phased return to campus

Posted by President Deep Saini on August 21, 2020 in News


To:                   Dalhousie faculty and staff

From:               Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor

Date:                Friday, August 21, 2020

Re:                   Fall outlook: Update on phased return to campus 


I hope you are all well as we approach the end of August and the start of the fall term. Before September arrives, I wanted to reach out with an update on several items:

First, let me express sincere thanks to all of our faculty and staff on behalf of the entire university for everything that is being done in support of our students, our academic and research missions, and our community as a whole. Please know your tireless efforts are widely recognized and truly appreciated.  

Faculty and support staff have been working very hard throughout the winter and summer terms to ensure courses are ready to be delivered in-person (accredited programs) and online. Record attendance in teaching and learning workshops — 3,800 registrants in more than 25 workshops over the past three months — speaks volumes about your efforts to provide our students with the strongest possible academic programing this fall and winter. For those accredited programs conducting some instruction in person, every measure is being taken to ensure these classes are held safely and in line with Dalhousie's occupational health and safety guidelines. Our residences are preparing to welcome students to Halifax and Truro in reduced capacity to ensure everyone’s health and well-being. Some research labs have re-opened, as have some of our library spaces and fitness facilities by appointment.

It has taken a great deal of hard work, detailed planning and cross-campus collaboration to get us to this point. Many faculty and staff will continue to work from home, and many of our students will be completing their courses from across Canada and around the world, but we remain united as One Dal joined by a common commitment to learning, discovery, impact and delivering high-quality academic programs consistent with Dalhousie's excellent reputation. Dalhousie can take pride in how we are meeting extraordinary circumstances together in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.  

Return to Campus phased planning

Phase I of our Return to Campus (RTC) is now complete. We’ve returned to campus many of our employees who were not able to work from home, reopened some research labs, begun some on-campus instruction for our accredited programs, and created bookable space for faculty to record online lecture materials.  

Phase II of our Return to Campus, currently underway, prioritizes academic continuity, student supports and the resumption of a wider range of research operations and carefully scheduled office access, with the goal of continuing a gradual and safe return of our community to the physical campus. Employees who can work from home will continue to work virtually in this phase as we continue to target on-campus numbers to be under 25% of our population to help limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Deans and unit leaders are in the process of developing plans for Phase II and Phase III (winter), all of which will be reviewed and approved by our Return to Campus committee.

Enrolment and financial outlook

Though some uncertainty remains, fall registration numbers are encouraging to this point, leaving us cautiously optimistic that enrolment is turning out better than originally modeled.

This is not to say that fiscal prudence is no longer needed: we will continue to operate under the measures outlined in the June Fiscal Update until our full enrolment picture becomes clear later in September and the Board approves a complete budget plan. We still expect revenue declines in several key areas, and a deficit budget for the year remains a possibility — but if enrolment trends continue, the deficit will be less than initially projected.  

These results are a strong reflection on our collective efforts to support our students. Thank you for your ongoing hard work — it is rewarding to think that we may be seeing the results of all your efforts to ensure our students feel supported and encouraged to continue their studies this fall.

Winter term instruction

As was communicated by Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic Frank Harvey earlier this week, we are working to provide a mix of online and in-person instruction for the winter term set to begin in January 2021A significant majority of courses will continue to be online both for health and access reasons (supporting students unable to travel to Halifax or Truro). Some courses with accreditation requirements or significant experiential learning components will be delivered safely in person. Other courses will be in a hybrid or blended format. Details will be shared as Faculties complete and submit their respective academic program plans over the next few weeks. 

The Academic Timetable will be updated to reflect academic delivery information for Winter 2021, and we hope to have all updates posted by mid-September.

Campus services, events, travel

  • Campus services: Some university service units have been resuming in-person services while others continue to operate virtually. Visit the Campus Services page on Dal’s COVID-19 website for details on specific services. 
  • Events: To ensure continued safety as we enter Phase II of our Return to Campus planning, we are not permitting indoor events on campus until at least October 15. Outdoor events will be considered provided a safety plan is completed, approved and followed and space is available. Requests for outdoor events can be submitted through the Campus Bookings process. (Events already approved by the Return to Campus committee do not need to be re-submitted.) 
  • Travel: While university-funded travel remains suspended until 2021 as a cost-reduction measure, those who wish to travel internationally using their research funds or funds from the Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) Travel Fund are permitted to do so in accordance with Dalhousie’s International Travel Policy. More information.

Safety Protocols

By adhering to public health guidelines, Nova Scotia has done well to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, as we see in other jurisdictions around the world, the threats posed by a global pandemic remain significant. The most important thing we can do to protect our collective health and safety while continuing to bring more activity back to campus is to follow approved health and safety protocols.

For those of you who will be on campus this fall, some of the measures you can expect include:

  • Non-medical masks are to be worn in indoor common spaces. This includes public spaces like buildings, libraries, dining areas, residences, hallways, stairwells, elevators and common study areas. More info on mask protocols can be found here. We will be making masks available for employees working on campus; details on how Faculty/unit leaders can safely pick up masks to supply to their faculty/staff will be shared shortly.  
  • Everyone is expected to maintain a safe physical distance of two metres (or six feet) whenever possible. You’ll find directional arrows and one-way signage in many hallways, stairwells and corridors, and some services will be delivered through a physical barrier (such as a plexiglass divider). 
  • Our Custodial Services team is ensuring frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces in common building areas, including doorknobs, light switches, handrails, bathrooms and more. 
  • Detailed safety plans are in place for all in-person instruction (programs in Medicine, Dentistry, select Health professions and the Veterinary Technology program).  
  • Continued commitment to Nova Scotia public health protocols is essential. In addition to the above, this includes frequent hand washing, following social distance guidelines, staying home if you don’t feel well and contacting *811 if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms.  
  • For students coming or returning to Nova Scotia this fall, the Student Affairs, Dalhousie Student Union, Residence and Faculty Teams have developed robust safety and orientation programs to ensure both a memorable and sound student experience.  
  • Finally, you may have seen yesterday’s announcement from the Province of Nova Scotia on new protocols for COVID-19 testing for students arriving in Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada. This information has also been shared with all our students. Learn more here.

For more information regarding on-campus safety, you can review Dalhousie’s institutional Return to Campus Guidance procedures and Safety Training Video (which is required viewing for those working on campus). We encourage everyone to keep up-to-date on the latest Nova Scotia health protocols at novascotia.ca/coronavirus.

More information

Please visit Dalhousie’s COVID-19 Updates and Information website to stay up to date on the latest information on the fall term, campus services and Return to Campus planning.  

Thank you again for your tireless efforts to make this fall as meaningful an educational experience as possible for our students. Please find time to relax and enjoy the remainder of these warm summer days.


Deep Saini
President and Vice-Chancellor