In keeping with my commitment to provide regular reports on our plans for recovery from the pandemic, I am writing to update you on some recent developments.
Health, safety, and academic excellence
The University’s first priority remains the health and safety of our entire community. Across all three campuses, faculty, librarians, and staff, along with our Principals and Deans, have been preparing for a fall term that combines an unyielding commitment to safety with the high-quality academic experience for which U of T is so widely respected. UTogether 2020: A Roadmap for the University of Toronto sets out many of the processes and protocols U of T is following as we plan for September and beyond. Its development has been guided by the staged reopening principles from the Province of Ontario.
Teaching and learning
Now that our divisions have posted their course offerings for the fall, we have a clearer idea of ‘what September will look like’. While the situation will, of necessity, vary from one division or campus to another, and may continue to evolve, the aggregate picture is consistent with our earlier commitment to offer a rich mix of learning opportunities and formats, combining online and in-person modes of delivery.
More than 90 per cent of our undergraduate course offerings will feature online (synchronous or asynchronous) delivery. At the same time, many of these same courses will offer a significant in-person element – either through ‘dual delivery’ mode (in which students have the option of enrolling online or in-person), or through in-person courses, labs, tutorials or experiential learning placements. At this stage we can report that, overall, at least one-third of our undergraduate courses will have an in-person component. In some divisions, more than half of course offerings will include an in-person option.
We anticipate that a higher proportion of our graduate courses will be offered in person, owing to their generally smaller size, but aggregate information on this activity is still being collected.
Much of the University’s research has continued uninterrupted since the start of the pandemic – in particular, non-lab-based research and lab-based research pertaining to COVID-19 or of a particularly time-sensitive nature. We have recently begun to re-open those research labs that were previously closed, following a process that complies with public health directives and follows institutional principles and guidelines. I am grateful to our faculty, staff and students who have worked so diligently to ensure a safe, orderly and successful reopening.
Evolving structures for pandemic response
Four months ago, in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic and guided by the University of Toronto’s pre-existing crisis framework, I established an Incident Leadership Team (ILT), led by Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost, and Professor Vivek Goel, who stepped down from his position as Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives on July 1.
The ILT has provided outstanding service to the University. It has worked diligently and constantly, in the face of an incredibly complex and ever-changing landscape, as it has taken the lead in planning and coordinating our collective response. The ILT has guided the University successfully through these months of crisis.
On behalf of the entire U of T community, I would like to thank Professor Regehr, Professor Goel and all the members of the ILT for their dedication and exemplary accomplishments in service to the University during this unprecedented time.
As we move from crisis-response to a ‘new normal’, the ILT has now been disbanded. Many of its members have returned to their former roles, and we have reverted to our normal structures, with adaptations as needed to support our continued response efforts.
Professor Goel, in his new role as Special Advisor to the President and Provost, will now lead the University’s operational response to the pandemic on a day-to-day basis. To assist him, the University has created the Response and Adaptation Unit, a small, dedicated team housed in the Provost’s Office, and a tri-campus Response and Adaptation Committee. Further details on the unit and committee will be posted soon. Should the need arise in the future, we would reactivate the University’s crisis framework along with an appropriate ILT structure.
Healthy, safe and successful September
I am grateful to our Incident Leadership Team, our Principals and Deans, our faculty members, librarians, staff, and, of course, our students, for their leadership, perseverance, and creativity as the University of Toronto community has navigated these past extraordinary months – and prepares for the next extraordinary months. I am confident that, by continuing to work together, we will ensure a healthy, safe, and successful start to the new academic year in September.
Meric S. Gertler
University of Toronto