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Confronting COVID-19

Getting your rest during trying times

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Queen’s sleep expert Judith Davidson outlines the best way to get the rest we need as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Woman sleeping in a brown bed
Queen’s University researcher Judith Davidson, one of Canada’s leading sleep experts, says it is normal to have some degree of sleep difficulty in times of uncertainty and when our daily routines have been suddenly altered. (Unsplash / Gregory Pappas)

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, more and more people are finding themselves confined to their homes for most of the day. Queen’s University researcher Judith Davidson is one of Canada’s leading sleep experts and says it is normal to have some degree of sleep difficulty in times of uncertainty and when our daily routines have been suddenly altered.

“People may be experiencing some trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, associated with the uncertainty about the pandemic, processing the fast-changing global news about it, and making sense of what it all means for them, and their family and friends,” Dr. Davidson, a faculty member in the Department of Psychology, says.

Dr. Davidson has worked in sleep research since 1981 and her work now focuses on insomnia and its treatment. She is currently looking at the best ways to make effective, non-drug treatment more available to people with insomnia. She says there four things people can do to help improve their sleep, without resorting to medication:

  • Know that it’s completely normal to have some anxiety, uneasiness, and perhaps some temporary sleep difficulty at this time.
  • Keep your routines in place. If you are off work or working from home, have structure in your day. Get up at the same time each day, get dressed, and start your day. Keep your regular meal and exercise times and stick to your regular bedtime. Avoid drifting to later bedtimes and sleeping in. On the other hand, avoid going to bed earlier than usual.
  • Don’t try to sleep. If you’re in bed and it feels like you’ve been awake for more than about 15 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and do something until you are sleepy. Return to bed when you feel sleepy. Same thing applies to waking up during the night.
  • Give your brain a break from the news and thinking about what’s happening in the world, especially in the hour before bedtime. Read a book, watch a movie, work on a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword.

Dr. Davidson explains temporary sleep difficulty can lead to irritability and low mood, and if the issue turns into chronic insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep that persists for at least three months and that interferes with daytime functioning), there is an increased likelihood of depression, cardiovascular problems, and Type 2 diabetes.

“It doesn’t mean everyone with chronic insomnia gets these things, it means that the likelihood is somewhat higher compared to people without chronic insomnia,” she explains. “Fortunately, there is a very effective treatment for chronic insomnia called cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia. This is the first-line treatment, above medications. So, even if you develop chronic insomnia, it can be reversed.”

For more information, visit Dr. Davidson’s website.

Adjusting to remote teaching

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Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce offers guidance to instructors.

Photo of John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning)
Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce speaking at the Teaching Awards Reception in January 2020.

As Queen’s prepares to move to remote learning, many instructors may be looking for advice and resources on how to adapt quickly to this new situation. The Gazette connected with John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) to find out what guidance he has for instructors as they take on this challenge.

Q: Many instructors at Queen’s may not have experience teaching classes remotely. What resources are now available to those looking to enhance these skills?

John Pierce: One thing I want everyone to understand is that instructors should use a technology that they are most comfortable with. Now is not the time for experimentation. The challenge of introducing new technology is that it may bring with it unforeseen difficulties for both instructors and students. Indeed, new technology may also introduce the need for new sets of accommodations for students, and our timeline for assessing and meeting these needs. I’m encouraging instructors to rely on technology that they feel confident using – even if it’s only email communication with your students.

For instructors looking for help adjusting to this situation, there are two main resources available for them: the Centre for Teaching and Learning and their faculty or school.

The Centre for Teaching and Learning has developed a website that directs people to resources for teaching classes remotely.

And I know that each of the faculties and schools is reaching out to their instructors with support. This support is coming in many different forms, including webpages with helpful resources and online tutorials about remote teaching and the use of technology. If anyone feels like they needed help navigating this situation, they should start by reaching out to their faculty or school and also check their websites.

Q: What kinds of adjustments do you think instructors will have to make as they move to teaching remotely?

Dr. Pierce: I want to respect the variations in course content, teaching styles and assessment practices each instructor has developed, but I do have some general thoughts in this area. In putting these forward, I am thinking of the specific challenges we all face in this constantly changing environment. During this week, all instructors have the chance to review their courses to determine the adjustments they want to make. The main goal of making adjustments should be to ensure that the essential academic requirements will be met.

Many instructors might find that they need to adjust the way they evaluate their students. The first question they need to ask is if they are able to award a final grade based on the work that their students have done to date. If not, they should see if they can do without a formal exam and substitute other kinds of assignments. And if they do need to retain some form of an exam, they should do so within the scheduled exam period.

Since there are only two weeks left in the term, I also think that instructors might focus on summarizing the academic year for their students instead of bringing in new material. They could therefore put their effort into conveying the overall learning objectives and outcomes for the course to their students.

Q: What is the most important piece of advice you think that Queen’s instructors should keep in mind as they finish up this unprecedented semester?

Dr. Pierce: The most important thing for instructors to keep in mind right now is that this is an unprecedented and extraordinarily stressful time for them, for their students, and for all the staff who support the educational mission of the university. Our adjustments should always keep this context in mind.

Instructors do not need to ensure that they cover all the material originally intended for the course. We will not be able to maintain the coverage that we would have been possible under normal circumstances. And our assessments probably can’t be as thorough as they would have been. As instructors make decisions about how to approach remote learning, I advise that they keep these aspects of our situation in mind.

 

To find all the resources on remote learning offered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, visit their website. Students who are looking for academic assistance can find resources that are available to them on the Student Academic Success Services website as well as through their faculties, schools, departments, and programs.

Queen’s offering free parking to support hospital staff

As part of the university’s growing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Queen’s is now offering free parking on two of its largest lots to heath care staff who work at the nearby Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Parking will be now be available at the Tindall Parking Lot, located at Albert and Union streets, and the former site of St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital, on Union Street, without permits from March 18 through April 5, 2020. 

 

The learning should never stop

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Queen’s University education expert Lynda Colgan has advice for parents now that schools have closed.

Two children use cellphones
Queen’s University researcher Lynda Colgan says maintain a daily learning routine is important for children (Unsplash / McKaela Lee)

With schools closed for at least the next three weeks, Queen’s University researcher Lynda Colgan says it’s critical for parents and guardians to continue to keep young people engaged through informal learning opportunities.  This will help them to feel more positive and prepared about returning to the classroom, when school is back in session.

“We know there is evidence of a ‘summer slide,’ which teachers have to work through in the fall. Some researchers suggest that in mathematics, children lose about 2.6 months of learning over the summer vacation. This situation is really no different,” says Dr. Colgan, who has been an educator for more than 30 years. “Routines have gone out the window, but we need to keep learning a daily routine and there are lots of ways to do that and keep it fun at the same time.”

Both locally and on a provincial level, there are a lot of learning opportunities available. Dr. Colgan says there are many free resources online for both younger learners and those at more advanced education levels. Locally, Science Rendezvous Kingston (@STEMygk) is tweeting new activities daily including bird watching, creating green cleaning products in your own kitchen, building a bottle rocket, and is supporting a Lego building challenge from @WAFFLESRobotics.

On a provincial level, organizations like Discover the Universe are offering online astronomy courses while Reading Rockets has a wide range of information for parents and unique activities for children. PopSugar is also sponsoring daily book readings by popular authors. Young people interested in history and science can visit the American Museum of Natural History for videos about dinosaurs and fossils.

“We are trying to do our best locally and I’ve personally been tweeting an activity every day,” says Dr. Colgan. “For me, it’s important have children reading and also doing some other kind of educational activity on a daily basis. This could include cooking with the family, which involves reading recipes and measuring ingredients. We know anxiety is increasing in children as the adults in their worlds are becoming increasingly stressed. Family activities like these are essential, educational, and reinforce the importance of human connection especially at a time like this”

Dr. Colgan, who has taught at all levels of public education in Ontario and is a leading researcher in elementary mathematics education, also addresses the increasing number of “education” videos popping up on social media channels as well as via workbooks and flashcard sets available in stores. She says worksheets do not often result in meaningful learning and many videos not only lack instructional quality, they contain content and strategies that are misleading at best, and wrong at worst. It is important to use websites, videos and on-line tutorials that are developed and recommended by educators.

“The most important message is that learning at home should not generate anxiety on the part of parents or children. Learning at home should be more about instilling the attitude that the world is our classroom and that we can acquire new skills and interests simply through everyday actions more than being about meeting formal curriculum goals,” she adds. “Instead of playing video games, why not read a book online instead, or to reduce children’s screen time, try planting some vegetable seeds and measuring their growth or playing games like UNO and Quiddler. Learning, especially learning that is fun because it is achieved through alternative methods like kitchen-sink science and word games, will be engaging and most importantly, memorable.

For more even more resources visit the Queen’s University Faculty of Education’s Resources for Parents and Teachers website.

Stepping up to help

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Students in the Faculty of Health Sciences are offering support for Kingston healthcare workers.

Photo of groceries being loaded into car.
Health Sciences students are offering free services to Kingston healthcare workers, including childcare and grocery shopping.

As healthcare workers take on the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also facing disruptions in their daily lives just like everyone else due to closed schools and daycares. Seeing this dilemma, students in the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences are banding together to help healthcare practitioners in Kingston by offering free services such as childcare, pet care, pickups and drop-offs, and grocery shopping.

“During public health crises like COVID-19, the demand on healthcare workers becomes extremely high. As aspiring health sciences professionals, we wanted to come together as a community to offer our support. Many of the healthcare workers in the Kingston Health Sciences Centre are also our teachers and mentors, and this felt like something we could do to give back to them after all they’ve given us,” says Shikha Patel, an organizer for the initiative and student in the Queen’s School of Medicine Class of 2022.

The initiative was started by members of the Aesculapian Society, the student government for the Queen’s School of Medicine, but quickly expanded to include students from across the Faculty of Health Sciences, which also includes the School of Nursing and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. In the few days since announcing the effort, many students have come forward to volunteer and many healthcare workers have reached out to request assistance.

The students are being sure to practice social distancing while they help out. Each student volunteer will work with only one family, to minimize the chances of spreading the virus. And any student who has travelled internationally or been working in a hospital will self-isolate for 14 days before offering any services.

“This is a very new initiative, so we’re still figuring out some details, and our capacity may change as the weeks go on. But we’ll be working to make sure we can provide as much help as we are able to,” says Patel.

Students who are interested in helping can fill out the volunteer form circulated by the Aesculapian Society.

Learn more about the initiative or request support by visiting their online form. For updates, follow the Aesculapian Society on Twitter.

Stay informed with the Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website

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COVID-19 Information website
For up-to-date information about Queen's response and resources regarding the coronavirus outbreak visit the COVID-19 Information website.

As new information about the spread of the coronavirus emerges, Queen’s University continues to work closely with public health authorities to protect the health and safety of everyone in the Queen’s community, whether on campus in Kingston, at SmithToronto, the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), or elsewhere in the world.

As the university steps up its transition to remote learning and working over the coming days, everyone is encouraged to visit the university’s central Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website to stay up to date with what’s changing. The website brings together daily updates and provides quick connections to many resources available across the university community. There is a daily updates section, as well as sections highlighting Messages and Statements, Symptoms and Response, Prevention, Travel, Public Health Updates, and FAQs, as well as information specifically for Students and Faculty and Staff.

Accepting anxiety as COVID-19 looms

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Queen’s University researcher Tom Hollenstein on ways of coping with stress as the world deals with the coronavirus.

A woman leafs through a book
Reading a book, playing a game, watching a movie, doing some spring cleaning, baking or cooking are good ways to distract yourself to lower your anxiety. (Unsplash / Joao Silas) 

With the threat of COVID-19 gripping the world, Queen’s University professor Tom Hollenstein uses his research into how we manage emotions to offer insight into how we are dealing with weeks of disruption, near isolation and the threat of getting sick.

“Resisting anxiety is part of the anxiety,” he says. “There are things we just don’t know, and we need to accept that. We need to accept the uncertainty. We are all anxious and that’s not bad or wrong. Things have changed in the world. We are getting more information faster and faster and things seem more imminent than ever before.

After Dr. Hollenstein’s classes were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, he decided to write something for his students to help them cope. Because that message for his students can be applied to everyone, he also published it on Medium.

“The most prominent feature of the current situation is the difficulty to predict what will happen, a loss of control,” Dr. Hollenstein says in his research piece. “This is true on the best of days but may be more intense with uncertainty about the global situation we are in. The most successful approaches in these situations involve controlling what you can and trying to accept the rest.”

Dr. Hollenstein also talks about trying to distract yourself to lower your anxiety which could include reading a novel, playing a game, watching a movie, doing some spring cleaning, baking or cooking – things you’ve always said you wished you’d had time for. He also says people should reexamine the situation – for example instead of asking “what does this mean for me?” you could say “what does it mean for others.”

“Reframing the situation also could work,” he says. “The entire world is grappling with their uncertainties, responses, and self- or other-imposed social distancing, just like you. We are all in this together. There are very few moments in which we can perceive the entire planet sharing the same experience. Often this comes from common threat. This may not diminish your anxiety, but it might change your sense of feeling alone or lonely over the coming weeks.”

He adds social support is also critical as the world waits for life to normalize. “We should think of this as distant socializing instead of social distancing. Providing support to others, even in a digital way, is just as effective if we are alone and anxious. New technology allows us to transcend time and space and engage each other just enough to get us through this.”

To read the full research piece Regulating Emotions in a COVID-19 World visit Medium.com.

Queen’s students studying abroad recalled

Given the rapidly-changing circumstances across the globe relating to COVID-19, Queen’s University is recalling students who are abroad to return to Canada or, in the case of non-Canadians, to return to their own home country. 

For up-to-date information, visit the Queen's Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website.

Queen’s will provide financial support for the cost of changing travel plans and support students in arranging your travel. If there are circumstances that keep students in their present location, they are asked to convey these circumstances immediately using this form, and no later than Thursday, March 19, by 9 am EST. 

Queen’s continues to affirm that students will not be disadvantaged in their academic program by returning home.  Queen’s will work with students and/or their host university to determine a feasible academic plan if they choose to return.  

The full recall statement available online.

For further information, visit the website for the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic).

How will COVID-19 impact business in Canada?

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In a coronavirus world, cash will be king, wearing a mask might not be so bad, and economic recovery will (hopefully) be quick.

 

Economics of coronavirus

Coronavirus is like a storm about to hit. No one knows how bad it’s going to get — or not. For now, coronavirus looks like a problem that could last months. Across Canada, governments are enacting emergency measures as they prepare for a virus that has so far sickened more than 200,000 worldwide and killed more than 8,000.

As the number of Canadian cases ticks up, businesses and schools are closing and people are hunkering down at home, having cleaned out stores of hand sanitizers, medical masks and soap. Streets are emptying.

WEBINAR
On March 20, join Smith Business Insight and Queen’s Executive Education for a free 45-minute webinar offering an in-depth look at the immediate and long-term impacts of coronavirus on Canada. Featuring Smith finance professor Wei Wang, strategy and governance professor Scott Carson, and organizational behaviour professor Kate Rowbotham.
Register now to learn:
• What steps companies need to take to adapt over the next few months
• The biggest risks that businesses will face
• The long-term implications of coronavirus on the economy
• How government can help firms right now
• How to work with employees and keep them engaged
• Strategic opportunities that may be available to businesses coming out of the crisis
• Whether we can expect a quick recovery (or not)
Following the presentation, we’ll have time for Q&A with our speakers
REGISTER

Coronavirus will create a number of challenges for businesses. What are they? And how can companies best handle them? We asked five Smith School of Business professors to weigh in: marketing professors Laurence Ashworth and Monica LaBarge; finance professors Wei Wang and Louis Gagnon; and strategy and governance professor Scott Carson.

Here, they answer our pressing questions:

What impact do you see on Canadian companies in the weeks ahead with coronavirus?

Laurence Ashworth: The most significant will be a change in consumption habits. Consumers are likely to cancel or reduce travel, delay large expenditures and stockpile essentials. They are also likely to avoid business settings that involves groups, such as exercise classes, bars, restaurants and supermarkets. We will likely see more online shopping, and possibly increased consumption of in-home entertainment. In short, people are likely to engage in what they view as “protective behaviours”.

The extent to which people engage in these behaviours will depend, in part, on their perceptions of the likelihood of catching the disease and the perceived severity of it. These perceptions will not always be accurate. One factor I suspect may play a role in these perceptions will be knowing of someone who has contracted the disease, such as a friend or a friend of a friend. Anecdotal information of this kind is extremely powerful and will have a disproportionate impact on people’s perceptions of the coronavirus risk and exacerbate their protective behaviour.

What are some issues businesses will have to deal with?

Monica LaBarge: From both the customer and an employer/employee side, nobody wants to come in contact with someone who may have the virus. So there is likely to be both reduced demand as well as a reduced ability to provide services if people aren’t wanting to come into work. This may include social service agencies, such as food banks and mental health services, which provide really important services to vulnerable members of our communities. The need for such services doesn’t stop just because there is a virus; in fact, they may become even more important since those populations may not have the ability to either stockpile resources or a safe location to self-quarantine. 

What’s the No. 1 hurdle companies will have to overcome?

Wei Wang: The single biggest issue for firms will be a shock to their cash flows as consumers stop or delay buying. For businesses right now, cash is king. The more short-term liquidity a company has the better it will be able to survive the bad situation. So, companies should start securing lines of credit as soon as possible. Ideally they’ll need a runway that will last two quarters or even longer. Coronavirus will be a lot different than the last crisis because for companies it will be about taking a sudden hit to their cash flows. The longer this situation lasts, the more business failures we are going to see. 

How can businesses prepare themselves?

LaBarge: From a staffing perspective, they have to figure out how they’re going to handle the potential need to close—either because they think it’s the least risky move or if there’s a quarantine. Are they going to pay their workers via their sick leave? Or allow draw-downs on vacation? Or temporarily lay staff off and and potentially allow them to access employment insurance?—if that even will be allowed by government.

From a demand side, it may be a good time to run sales—which could be made available online—so people can buy now and pick up later, so as to maintain some sort of cash flow. For businesses like restaurants, I would suggest they keep one eye on the emergence of cases and another eye on their perishable inventory, so that if they do have to close temporarily they don’t experience significant losses on that front.

What can businesses and government do to ease people’s fears?

Ashworth: Businesses can offer consumers alternative methods of conducting business that don’t involve person-to-person contact. After all, this is the main thing consumers will be trying to avoid. More generally, business and government need to consider how to keep people acting normally—in other words, how to stop people feeling like they need to protect themselves so much, given that most people probably have inflated views of the risk. Information that helps people form accurate impressions is critical.

Contrary to what a good deal of health practitioners have been advising, it may be useful to allow consumers to practise even minimally effective protective behaviour, such as wearing face masks, because such activities will increase perceptions of protection, causing people to act more normally. Obviously we’d like people to practise effective protection too, such as hand washing and self-isolation when necessary, but, at the same time, a good deal of what we need to do is persuade people not to engage in drastic behaviours.

How can government help businesses overcome the economic downturn that coronavirus may cause?

Wang: Governments really need to take three steps to help businesses. First, both here in Canada and in the U.S., they need to contain the virus. If that means shutting down the country, then that’s what they need to do. So far, we’ve seen some businesses closing and others have remained open. If the virus continues to spread, this approach may not work, and more drastic measures will be required. One reason investors in America were so concerned at first was that the U.S. administration did not seem to be taking coronavirus seriously. That, of course, has now changed.

The next thing government needs to do is increase testing for coronavirus. Until we can find out for sure the number of cases, we won’t be able to get the virus under control. So the government should really fund more testing—bring back retired medical staff and set up temporary testing stations. The hospitals already have enough patients with other conditions to deal with.

The third step is financial support for businesses. Governments should be offering tax cuts and giving direct loans to small businesses to help them. We are starting to see fiscal stimulus packages from both countries but up until now what we saw was the Fed in the U.S. and the Bank of Canada cut interest rates. The problem with that strategy is it doesn’t really directly help many businesses. The biggest problem with coronavirus for most companies will be taking a hit on cash flow and a longer cash conversion cycle. Companies will have difficulty paying overheads, paying suppliers and perhaps making payments on their loans. So more direct support for businesses is what is required. If we have these three measures in place, we might be able to get over the worst of coronavirus in two months.

Can we expect a long or short economic recovery from coronavirus? 

Scott Carson: To give some strategic perspective, consider the fundamental structure of business relationships at the industry level. The basic competitive relationships among rival companies within industries are unchanged by the current situation. Businesses still compete on price, differentiation and the strategic use of resources.

What is being harmfully impacted is at the firm level. First, buyer behaviour is highly volatile, largely because of declining consumer confidence. Second, coronavirus is causing havoc with both production and transportation supply chains, requiring adjustments to current-period business plans. 

But these economic shocks are not permanent. They don’t represent structural changes to industries or a major rethinking of long-range corporate strategies. As with pandemics in the past, such as SARS in 2002-03, avian flu in 2006 and H1N1 in 2009, the duration is usually not much longer than a fiscal quarter, and the economic recovery is V-shaped—precipitously down, then rapidly back up. So, we should be confident that business activity will pick up and the economy will recover.

What will be some of the more long-term effects on businesses from coronavirus?

Louis Gagnon: If anything, the coronavirus should be reminding industry captains, such as Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, that it is simply too dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket and tie our supply chains too closely to any specific country or region halfway across the world. Money managers have known for a long time that diversification across many stocks and sectors makes portfolios less vulnerable and pays off in the long run. This is a lesson which business leaders in other sectors of the economy need to learn as well, especially those who have chosen to export their manufacturing capacity to other countries to drive down their costs. This is basic risk management. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principal provides important update to faculty, staff, and students

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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

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