To the members of the University College community,
I am writing to welcome you to the new academic year. I hope you, your families, and loved ones are healthy and in good spirits despite the situation the world finds itself in. I also hope that you found some time to unplug and rest over the summer. As we head into a truly extraordinary school year, I would like to take this opportunity to update you on where things stand at UC.
Together with the University of Toronto, UC has been preparing for a gradual return of academic and student life to campus. Following provincial health guidelines, we will foster a level of on-campus activity that is practicable, sensible, and safe. For the latest information on U of T’s response to COVID-19 and the return to campus, please visit UTogether 2020: A Roadmap for the University of Toronto. We will also be posting UC-related updates on the UC website.
As we head into fall, our buildings will be open to the U of T community. To avoid a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in the GTA, most staff members will continue to work from home, except for those who are needed for on-campus operational purposes or those who provide critical services in the areas of student life, residences, and in the registrar’s office. Though nearly all teaching in UC programs will happen online this fall, some in-person instruction will take place in the UC building, where ample signage has been added to ensure the safe flow of people. The UC Library, which has moved into its splendid new quarters at the front of the building, will remain closed for now, as the space does not lend itself to physical distancing. Some study space will be available nearby at the Gerstein and Robarts libraries. Books from the UC library will be available through curbside pickup.
Due to international travel restrictions, some of our students remained in residence throughout the spring and summer. Other new UC students began to arrive last week. Due to the necessary de-densification, we will have less than a third of our regular residence occupancy as this academic year starts. Faculty members are encouraged to continue working from home unless their presence on campus is necessary to fulfill teaching and research obligations. As such, UC will likely have very few students, staff, and faculty on campus this fall, helping to do our part to curb the pandemic in the GTA.
All regular UC events such as College Council, alumni events, and Senior Common Room meetings will be happening virtually, while some events will be postponed. Sadly, this includes the planned celebration and grand opening of the UC building’s revitalized spaces. As is the case with so many things dear to us, this is something we are looking forward to holding when it is safe again to congregate in larger groups.
In addition to the announcement about academic staffing changes in my May 2020 message, I am happy to share more exciting news: Dr. Carrianne Leung will serve as UC’s Barker Fairley Distinguished Visitor for 2020-21, and Dr. Leanne de Souza has joined the UC Health Studies Program (jointly with the Human Biology Program) as Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, for a three-year appointment.
Many people in the College and beyond have worked extraordinarily hard for us to make it possible to begin this academic year. I would like to once again express my sincere gratitude to all members of the UC community for the flexibility and dedication you have shown over the past months. Our instructors, under the expert leadership of our Vice-Principal and Program Directors (all of them new in their roles), have undertaken an immense amount of work to adapt their teaching to the new circumstances. Front-line UC staff continue to perform critical work for our students on campus while others admirably keep the College running remotely, often with added responsibilities in caring for our youngest and our seniors.
In light of the events of 2020 thus far, we face unique challenges this September and we will need to draw on the strength and cooperation of our entire community in order to meet them. Our students and faculty members will be adapting to a new way of learning and teaching online, and I would encourage everyone to show patience and understanding. The mental health of our students is a perennial concern and we must be especially supportive of them during these extraordinary times. And at every opportunity, we must reaffirm our commitment to our College’s founding principles of inclusiveness, diversity, and open inquiry.
In closing, I’d like to ask all of you to bear in mind the importance of maintaining personal contact among colleagues and students. A call, an email, or a little recognition can make a big difference for their well-being and your own. For your own health, as well as the health of those around you: please remember that wearing masks or face coverings is required in public or common spaces in U of T buildings, practice physical distancing, wash your hands often, and self-isolate if you’re not feeling well. These are simple safeguards that will contribute to the health and well-being of our community as we weather this storm.
Despite the many challenges we have faced over the past months, it has been heartening to witness our close-knit community exhibit such resilience and support for one another. Thank you for your continued efforts in this regard and for helping UC maintain its unique sense of togetherness despite being physically apart.
Principal, University College