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Principal’s update on planning for Fall 2020

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane on how Queen’s is preparing for a variety of scenarios for the coming academic year.

Gran Hall seen from above

With the 2019-2020 academic year wrapping up, the Queen’s University community is giving its full attention to the coming year and to the question of how we will provide our students with the same outstanding experience that for 179 years has defined our institution. What impact the COVID-19 pandemic will still be having on life in our city and province this fall is impossible to predict with certainty, so we are having to make decisions to prepare for a variety of scenarios. This is of course a challenging and complex situation, with September more than four months away and so much unknown.

One thing we do know for certain is that Queen’s will welcome new and returning students this fall with the same eagerness and excitement as in any other year. We will be open, but how “normal” life at Queen’s will be will depend on the best advice available from public health authorities to ensure that students enjoy stable, safe and stimulating conditions for their studies. It is certainly our hope that students will be on campus, but we are also preparing for the possibility of remote delivery should physical distancing still be required and significant concentrations of people be prohibited.

Whether such restrictions will be less or more severe is impossible to say at present. As I announced just a few weeks ago, we have teams of staff, faculty and students hard at work reviewing all the possible ways we might operate in the fall. They are committed to ensuring that whatever limits may be placed on our physical presence, the vitality of the community experience and the excellence of a Queen’s education are not compromised. What has drawn generations of students to Queen’s, and what has nourished and stimulated them while they were here, will be available to students this fall, regardless of the ways in which we might be forced to adapt to COVID-19. 

In the weeks and months ahead we will learn more, and as we do so we will take care to provide timely and clear information on the various decisions that we know will have to be made. Because academic programs vary widely in their needs, and because the conditions of learning and research differ across faculties and other units, aspects of course delivery will inevitably diverge across the institution. For that reason, it is the faculties that will increasingly be sources of information and guidance as we gain clarity on the implications of COVID-19 for our fall operations. It is too early yet to make final decisions, but I can commit to you that our goal will always be the full return of our students, staff and faculty. But if we are to be realistic, this is likely to be achieved in stages as we see public health restrictions being lifted. 

I am sure everyone understands how difficult it is to make these decisions in a context that is extremely changeable. The best I can do is promise to keep everyone — students returning, students arriving, staff and faculty — properly informed of the situation in which Queen’s will continue to pursue its distinguished mission.

Sincerely,
Patrick Deane