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Principal provides important update to faculty, staff, and students

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Preventative measures at Queen’s are aimed at slowing the rate of infection to ensure the healthcare system can focus on those more seriously affected by the virus.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has issued a message to the Queen's community about the latest measures the university is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Some of the most important points address meetings and gatherings; academic programming; convocation and degrees; and faculty & staff working arrangements.

STATEMENT SUMMARY
Meetings and Gatherings

  • All gatherings, including work-related activities or events, are limited to no more than 10 people.
  • Social events and non-essential gatherings should be cancelled.
  • Essential meetings should be moved online.
  • Everyone should avoid any public spaces where personal distancing of two metres or more is not possible.

Academic Programming

  • Effective immediately, graduate programs will move to remote delivery. Last week, it was announced that undergraduate classes were to be moved to remote delivery. This now means all academic programs will move to remote delivery until the end of the semester.
  • Graduate student research activities should be accessed remotely whenever possible and where not, continue with appropriate social distancing, limiting any activities to 10 people or less.
  • No more in-person classes or labs for duration of the term for undergraduate and graduate courses.
  • No in-person examinations, except for comprehensives/dissertation defences. Consult your supervisor for more information.
  • Students will still complete the academic year, gaining course credits as appropriate, and those set to complete their programs, will do so.
  • Students in Kingston, or in any of our other locations where they may temporarily reside in order to access or academic services, should go home. However, we are not requiring people to leave.
  • Any summer course offerings that are not online are cancelled.
  • Summer programming at the Bader International Study Centre will not take place.

Convocation and Degrees

  • Students will graduate and degrees will be conferred, but spring convocation ceremonies will not take place.

Services

  • Residences, food halls, libraries, and essential administration offices will remain open. With fewer students using services, there will be some reduction in what can be provided.

Faculty and Staff

  • Human Resources will work with managers and staff to find flexible arrangements for staff and faculty affected by the closing of schools in the province.
  • Where possible, faculty and staff are being encouraged to work from home.
  • Over the next week, senior leadership will determine what services are essential.

The full message follows:

Dear Queen’s Community,

I recognize that the last few days have given rise to many questions and concerns about the continuing operation of our university. COVID-19 is spreading around the world at a rapid pace and we are working to make the right decisions to protect our communities. On Friday, you received an email from me indicating that undergraduate classes (with the exception of health professional programs) would be suspended for the coming week as we move toward remote delivery of our programs. We made this decision in step with other post-secondary institutions quickly trying to decide what might be the best preventative approach to curb the spread of the virus. We are having to make decisions in real time, in the face of an ever-changing reality that is nearly impossible to predict. Many staff are working around the clock to ensure that those decisions are made with the latest science considered and with the best advice of our experts in public health. We want to deal with this situation in the best possible way, but to some extent it is a guessing game and no one knows with any certainty what lies ahead.

Some things are certain, however. The virus will come to our campuses, and when it does so we will need to manage it. While it is inevitable that members of our community will get sick, most will have only mild symptoms. They should stay home until they are well and take all possible measures to avoid infecting others. The point is to avoid all of us getting sick at once, because if we can slow the rate of infection through preventative measures like good hygiene and social distancing, we can keep our healthcare system whole and ensure that those few who might be more seriously affected by the virus will have access to the additional medical services they require. This must always be our goal.

We need to protect our community which includes our staff, faculty and students. With that in mind, I am announcing additional preventative measures for us all. Effective immediately, and upon the advice of public health, we are limiting all gatherings, including any work-related activities or events to no more than ten people. Social events and non-essential gatherings should be cancelled. Essential meetings should be moved on-line. Everyone should avoid any public spaces where personal distancing of two metres or more is not possible.

For students, an immediate change is that graduate programs will also be moved to remote delivery. There will be no more in person classes or labs for the duration of the term for undergraduate or graduate courses. There will be no in person exams (with the exception of comprehensives/dissertation defences). Graduate student research activities should be accessed remotely whenever possible and where not, continue with appropriate social distancing. All of the university’s academic programs will move to remote delivery until the end of the semester. Despite this change in format, our expectation is that students will complete the academic year, gaining course credits as appropriate, and those who are set to complete their programs, will do so. We are working diligently to avoid shutting down operations, but we must change the way we do things.

This leads me to convocation. For the foreseeable future social distancing will be critical to containing the spread of the virus, and for that reason convocation ceremonies in the conventional form will simply not be possible. Students will graduate and degrees will be conferred, but mass gatherings of hundreds of people will likely be no less hazardous in two months’ time than they are today. As we work out alternative arrangements we will communicate them, but it seems prudent to let you know now that traditional spring convocation ceremonies will not take place.

In addition, any summer course offerings that are not online are cancelled, and summer programming at the Bader International Centre will not take place.

Moving to remote delivery of academic programming means many students will now complete courses from their homes. We are strongly suggesting that students living in Kingston or any of our other locations where they may temporarily reside in order to access our academic services, should go home. We are not, however, requiring people to leave. We understand not everyone has that option and we will continue to strive to keep required services in order to support those that must remain. However, with fewer students using these services and with much of the staffing provided by students, there will be a reduction in what we are able to provide. This is a natural consequence.

For our staff and faculty, the most important first step is to speak with your manager or Dean about your specific circumstances. Recent announcements from the province closing schools for three weeks creates pressures on parents. Our Human Resources Department is asking managers and staff to find flexibility to accommodate this strain on a significant proportion of our work force. Although the university remains open at this time, we are encouraging staff, where possible, to work remotely. In light of advice from public health for greater social distancing, all offices should think about ways to organize their work to promote this. Please also refer to communication provided by your own Faculties and Divisions about continued operations.

This is an evolving and unprecedented situation and I am asking for your patience, support and creativity as we respond to it. Missteps in this process are inevitable, but I can promise you that the leadership of the university will always be guided by the desire to do what is best for the health and safety of all our students, staff and faculty. COVID-19 will test our health care system, certainly, but it will also test our social institutions in ways that have become vividly apparent in the last few weeks. So far it has challenged our university to find new ways to do its work, to ensure that our communal goal—the education of students and the advancement of knowledge—remains in sight even while the opportunity for personal interactions vital to that mission is reduced or eliminated. This test of our institution is also a test of every individual within it. In proportion to the disaggregating demands placed on us by the virus, we need to show patience, kindness and compassion, to pursue cooperation and to support each other at every opportunity.

I am confident we will prevail.

Patrick Deane
Principal and Vice-Chancellor