Dear members of the UBC community.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking to you from the traditional and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.
Lately we’ve heard hopeful news about COVID-19 vaccines, with two of the groups working on a vaccine announcing promising results.
However, it will be months before the vaccines become widely available, and further months before we can return to normal.
In the meantime, COVID-19 is very much with us. I recognize that it is causing a strain for all members of the UBC community, whether students, faculty or staff. We’ve all been living with the consequences of this pandemic for several months.
For faculty and staff it has meant increased workloads, and a change to the way we do our work.
For students it has meant taking courses remotely, often under less than ideal circumstances, and without the facilities and support available on campus.
These frustrations were clearly expressed at a meeting of the UBC Vancouver Senate this week.
I heard the concerns expressed at the meeting, and I have asked my executive to review the measures we are taking, to ensure we are supporting our students, faculty and staff as best we can. This includes, for example continued flexibility in academic concessions for students in light of the stresses stemming from the pandemic.
It is also my understanding that relevant committees of the university Senates are also actively considering this situation.
At this time, we all need to show empathy, compassion and understanding and to take care of each other and ourselves.
As I said earlier, there is good news about COVID and I’m proud to say that UBC has a connection to the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine. It relies on innovations developed by Acuitas Therapeutics, a spin-off from UBC’s Life Sciences Institute. Another UBC spin-off, AbCellera, in partnership with Eli Lilly and Company, has successfully developed a treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19 cases.
But we cannot afford to let our guard down. COVID is still very much with us. In many places, including here in British Columbia, the number of cases is rising at a worrisome rate, as are deaths and hospitalizations.
Please respect the COVID guidelines that apply where you are located.
For example, here in Vancouver, that means socializing only with those in your core bubble. It means not travelling outside the region unless your trip is necessary.
UBC has its own guidelines in place as well. Masks are mandatory indoors on our campuses, for example. Follow the relevant signage regarding entering, exiting or moving about within campus buildings. Stay home if you’re feeling sick.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones and reach out to them, even if virtually. Together, we will get through this.
As you know, each week I give a shoutout to a particular member of the UBC community. This week, I’m pleased to present some students and recent graduates in the Film Studies program who volunteer at COSMIC Medical, a not-for-profit organization, which is working to provide personal protective equipment around the world through open-source design. Gabriel Garland, Rehmat Babbar and Laura Isabel – UBC is proud of you and your colleagues.
Finally, for my #songsofcomfort selection today, I’d like to present a piece by UBC alumnus Tommy Vo, who is currently in the Doctor of Music Arts program at the University of North Texas. Tommy will play Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me on the euphonium.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor