COVID-19: Message from President Cassels

March 20, 2020 - University of Victoria

Dear colleagues,  

I am writing this to update you on the measures the University of Victoria is taking to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in our community and to navigate these uncertain, fast-changing and challenging times.

Only one week ago, students were attending class, faculty and staff were going about their daily work and the campus was humming in an almost normal way. How rapidly things change.

As you may have heard, yesterday we notified our campus community about our first confirmed case of a campus member, an upper-level student, testing positive for COVID-19. We are relieved to hear that they are doing well and wish them a quick and full recovery. See the Mar. 19 update for details.

Our response since January

For the past six weeks we have been monitoring the global situation, preparing operational plans for the growing challenge, and working to facilitate the return of our students who were working or studying abroad.

In January we struck a Response Coordination Team and three weeks ago we escalated our planning by activating a full Emergency Operations Centre under UVic’s emergency procedures.

Those teams have been working tirelessly to respond to our emerging challenges and the daily directives that we have received from the public health office of British Columbia. I want to thank them for their solution-minded approach to every single challenge they have encountered. Their task has not been easy because they are working in an environment of uncertainty, and seeking to balance a host of priorities and considerations.

Our guiding principles

The guiding principles for our response are to:

  • Follow and implement the advice of public health experts to protect the health and safety of our community. We have been interacting daily with relevant ministries and health authorities to achieve this.
  • Put in place measures to mitigate the short-term consequences of the disruption for our students and researchers, and take reasonable steps to maintain services to our students, staff, faculty, librarians and community. This has required tremendous efforts by faculty and staff, for which I am most grateful.
  • Recognize the significant challenges faced by everyone in relation to planning in their personal and family lives during this time.

Measures to tackle this health crisis

Our response has involved many steps, including moving away from face-to-face classes, eliminating international travel, emphasizing the importance for everyone to follow public health guidelines, putting those guidelines into practice in university operations, and most recently encouraging and facilitating remote working and helping students in campus residences to return to their homes elsewhere.

There will undoubtedly be further measures put in place over the coming days as we continue to work in concert with other institutions, public health officials and our provincial and federal governments to do our part to slow and reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission.

Our campus has drawn together to meet this unprecedented challenge

People are the heart of this university and I am deeply appreciative of all the ways our community members are being extremely flexible and making significant adjustments in the face of this mounting challenge. I want to acknowledge everyone’s efforts to transition rapidly to alternative forms of instruction and work arrangements, and to thank faculty and staff for their creativity, flexibility and exceptional work at this time.

Our students have been outstanding throughout, with their patience and willingness to adapt to these unprecedented challenges. We are all learning together.

Where to now?

During this time, I am reminded again of the important part that universities play in the lives of individuals and communities through education, research and public engagement.

Despite the extraordinary time in which we find ourselves, we continue to play that role. Even now, we have already begun planning together for the time when we emerge from this crisis. In the meantime, we have also reached out to offer our resources and capabilities to others, and we continue to challenge ourselves to find new, creative ways to continue to serve our students and communities.

Together, we will continue to build a stronger, even more connected community. I thank each and every one of you for your contributions toward that goal.

More information on the University of Victoria’s response to the COVID-19 situation is available on uvic.ca/covid-19.

Jamie  

Jamie Cassels, QC  
President and Vice-Chancellor