March 15: Message from President Saini
To: Dalhousie students, faculty and staff
From: Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor
Date: Sunday, March 15, 2020
Re: A note of gratitude and appreciation
This has been an extraordinary weekend. As I reflect on the decisions we’ve had to make together as a shared community, the gravity, impact and consequence of this moment hit home.
Today, the first presumptive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nova Scotia. On Friday, Dalhousie and King’s made the decision to suspend in-person courses, labs and exams for the remainder of the term and move all instruction to distance to allow students to complete the semester — a decision many of our peer universities across our region and across Canada are also making. While students who cannot return home are able to stay on campus, most are making plans to depart as soon as they can. We’ve cancelled or postponed all non-essential events and suspended all non-essential university travel.
While Dalhousie remains open, there will certainly be people for whom today’s news about the closure of schools and daycares in Nova Scotia may affect their ability to report to work. Please consult with your director, department chair or supervisor if you have questions or concerns.
As communicated yesterday, we are also cancelling Spring Convocation. With Public Health asking organizations to limit social gatherings, cancelling a mass celebration like Convocation may seem an easy decision. Yet it weighs heavily on all of us — faculty, administrators and, of course, students — who believe our academic mission and the culmination of our students’ experience here is worth celebrating. Rest assured that not only will we make sure all students are still awarded their degrees/credentials, but we will work to develop a plan so that students who wish to cross the Convocation stage in the future can do so, potentially in the fall. Every graduate should have the “hurrah” they’ve rightly earned.
Moving courses to distance and cancelling large university events like Convocation are the kinds of sacrifices, compromises and weighty choices we all have to make if we hope to “flatten the curve” and limit the spread of COVID-19. Doing so will help protect those for whom COVID-19 represents a life-threatening predicament, lessen the burden on our health-care system, and hopefully prevent the disease from becoming truly overwhelming for our society at large.
Like my colleagues on our senior leadership team, I’ve been reading your emails, tweets and messages as best as I can. It’s quite reasonable to feel anxious about this fast-moving moment of great uncertainty. But mostly I’ve been incredibly impressed by the sense of community and support I’ve seen as we pull together under unprecedented circumstances. This next week, as we begin the process of figuring out how to work together quite differently than ever before, I encourage everyone to take a moment and thank others for what they contribute to Dalhousie — especially in a moment like this.
Perhaps I can start with just a few…
- Thank you to the students who are making their way home to complete their term remotely — especially those who may be graduating this year. I hope your Dalhousie experience has exceeded your expectations — thank you for your contributions to our community. For those students who are unable to leave, and are staying here with us in Halifax, Truro or elsewhere: please reach out and let us know how we can help with anything you need.
- Thank you to faculty who are about to enter uncharted waters in their own teaching journey. For many of you, this may be your first time engaging with your students via distance teaching. I know you will take on this challenge with the same unwavering commitment to our students that you bring to the classroom each and every day.
- Thank you to front-line service staff who are stepping up to support our community in these complex times. You’re the ones who get the most difficult questions — the ones that may not always have easy answers — and who put in the hard work to solve problems, one person at a time. Your work is invaluable. An extra note of thanks to our janitorial services staff across the university for going above-and-beyond and taking extra measures to keep our spaces clean.
- Thank you to our deans and academic and administrative leaders across the university, who experience the complexity of a situation such as this up close and have to figure out how these circumstances impact our vast and diverse academic community.
I could go on and on and on, but I will leave it there and hope others carry on this wave of thanks in the days ahead. There will be challenges to come, without a doubt, but together we will move forward in support of our students, our research and our academic mission.
A reminder to all to continue checking your dal.ca email for updates in the days to come. For more detailed information, including frequently asked questions, visit dal.ca/coronavirus. If you have questions you can’t find the answers to, email COVID19@dal.ca and we will attempt to address your questions as best we can. And remember to do your part and follow public health advice.
Thank you, and stay well,
President and Vice-Chancellor