Dear Members of the UBC Community:
I hope you and your loved ones are well.
This week the university made three important announcements as it and the province start phased returns.
First, we told you about the status of the fall term.
As you know, COVID-19 required the university to shift to online instruction in mid-March and for the Summer terms. Since then we’ve been working hard to plan for how we might teach later this year.
During fall 2020, UBC will primarily offer larger classes online with selected smaller classes conducted in-person, adhering to physical distancing and other public health requirements. We will maintain a clear focus on ensuring high-quality face-to-face instruction, where possible, and high-quality remote instruction. Individual Faculties will be sharing updates about specific programs in the coming weeks.
We are working to ensure that the necessary supports are provided for our students, particularly those who are experiencing financial challenges, or who need extra advising or counseling. The requirement to maintain physical distancing also includes planning for any potential impact that travel restrictions might have on our international students, such as obtaining study permits or having difficulty travelling. Details about plans for residences and co-curricular activities will be shared as soon as they are confirmed.
Our approach is being taken to ensure a high-quality experience for all of our students in fall 2020, and it reflects UBC’s commitment to creating an enriching experience for our new, and returning students.
This plan was developed in close consultation with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training and with other post-secondary institutions within BC to ensure we are all aligned with health and safety guidelines and WorkSafeBC.
I would like to extend my personal thanks, not only to our new and returning students for their understanding and patience, but also to our dedicated faculty who are working diligently and flexibly to adapt their materials to virtual instruction. Your efforts, and those of the staff who are working with you, are greatly appreciated.
UBC’s second announcement this week focused on plans for the phased resumption of on-campus research.
And this is particularly relevant in view of this morning’s announcement of $450M in new support for researchers at universities to be administered by our tri-councils. We are very grateful for this and the earlier $291M in research support focused on Canada’s COVID-19 response
The university introduced curtailment of non-essential on-campus research in Vancouver and in the Okanagan in mid-March to comply with public health guidelines.
Since then, many of our researchers have made great efforts to support this transition conducting their research and scholarly activity remotely.
We recognize the impacts for our researchers, their graduate students and their research teams and thank them for their ongoing commitment.
In collaboration with faculties, UBC is now planning for a phased resumption of on-campus research starting the beginning of June. This will be a gradual approach over the summer and applies to those researchers who require on-campus resources and cannot conduct the work remotely.
In keeping with public health guidelines, the majority of our faculty and staff will need to continue to work remotely wherever possible.
As with the fall term planning, research resumption planning is being undertaken with our government and health agency partners and other post-secondary institutions in the province to ensure we are following health and safety guidelines.
The health and safety of our community remains UBC’s top priority.
And the third announcement was with regard to operational and safety planning. Post-secondary institutions will be in Phase 3 of the province’s recovery plan, which will take place between June and September, providing transmission rates remain low.
We are developing an operational safety plan and approval process that Faculties and administrative units will be required to complete before any changes can be made to the remote work arrangements currently in place.
We will provide you with more information about this process within the next two weeks.
Finally, I’d like to thank immigration minister Marco Mendicino and the federal government for adjusting the rules regarding post-graduation work permit rules. Their flexibility will greatly help international students and Canadian post-secondary institutions.
Before I close with my usual #Songsofcomfort selection, I’d like to talk about UBC’s climate emergency response.
As you know, in December UBC declared a climate emergency. The declaration included a commitment to establish a task force, a climate emergency community engagement process and recommendations to the Board of Governors.
We set up the UBC Climate Emergency Task Force — which includes UBC students, faculty and staff — to advise on the gathering of ideas from UBC’s diverse and insightful community on addressing the climate emergency and the recommendations resulting from the engagement process.
Starting next Tuesday, May 19, we will hold a series of online community dialogues on Zoo to give the UBC community a chance to learn, engage and discuss bold actions around the climate crisis. You can find more details at climateemergency.ubc.ca.
And now, this week’s #SongsofComfort selection in which I join Mike Carr, Daniel Laverde and Jim Questa in a performance of Nights in White Satin. The song was written by Justin Hayward and originally performed by the Moody Blues, one of my favourite groups. I hope you like it.
Best wishes and stay safe.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor