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COVID-19: Joint Message from OCAD University Board Chair Jaime Watt and President & Vice-Chancellor Dr. Diamond

We write today to provide an update on actions OCAD University is taking in the face of this unprecedented pandemic. 


But first, some thanks. Thank you to all our faculty and staff for your outstanding commitment to OCAD U during this difficult time and for your tireless and collective efforts to mobilize so quickly – from ensuring the well-being of our students to offering and attending workshops on how to leverage technology, to creating the IT infrastructure to make this possible, and to planning for almost every possible contingency. The passion and commitment that you have to OCAD U is not only tremendous but on display in a way like never before.  


As we face COVID-19 together, we thank you for sharing the commitment to the health and safety of all members of our community, and ensuring our students are able to complete the winter term and/or graduate. We know these past few weeks have not been easy for our community, especially with the decision to close our facilities and find alternate ways to deliver curriculum and undertake research. The brilliant OCAD U spirit of creativity, cooperation and resilience has again shown itself.  


To our students: We thank you for your patience and commitment to continuing your studies at a very difficult time. We know that COVID-19 impacts your learning experience and your finances. We believe in your talent, creativity and flexibility and are deeply concerned for your well-being.   


This week, we resumed delivery of our curriculum. Faculty members have reached out to you to implement the ways that assignments and courses are moving forward towards completion. We have asked faculty to be flexible in light of the circumstances many of you are facing, and we have introduced a number of tools and strategies to support course continuity.  


We have developed a streamlined Emergency Bursary Application to assist you at a time when you may be experiencing financial hardship because of the current state of emergency. While our facilities are closed, we want to reassure OCAD U students that we continue to work remotely to provide you with services and support. The Student Wellness Centre is open and is providing the following virtual services: counselling, student accessibility, peer supports and survivor support, as well as limited in-person physician services. 


To our graduating students: You and your faculty have asked whether Convocation will be held in June. We know how important Convocation is for students, family and friends and the larger OCAD U community. We are currently exploring our options and we will share an update as soon as we are able.  


With our university colleagues and government, we continue to monitor the implications of the pandemic on OCAD U. We are developing contingency plans in the event of a prolonged closure beyond April 24. We are looking at scenarios to analyze and respond to the longer-term impacts of COVID-19. We have provided Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities with an assessment of financial and curricular impacts of COVID-19 on OCAD U in the near and mid-term and are working with the Council of Ontario Universities to suggest appropriate policy responses to government.  


We are taking changes in municipal, federal and provincial policy into account. Please read yesterday’s announcement by Mayor John Tory to declare a state of emergency in Toronto.  


And finally, you will want to know we are lending our expertise in a time of unimaginable need. We are also in regular communication with Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities to offer the University’s support and expertise during this crisis. For example, our Inclusive Design Research Centre has compiled and is offering resources for people with disabilities and other vulnerable communities, providing support in moving K-12 curriculum online and applying machine learning to analyze COVID-19 population data. Our Health Design Studio has provided timely communication tools in 27 language to support emergency rooms and testing centers. We have offered to support the visualization of COVID-19 data and help guide support services delivery through our Visual Analytics Lab.  


And there is more. We are contributing to design thinking and scenario planning so government and industry can manage through this crisis. Other faculty are applying their design, foresight, research in social cohesion, and creative skills to support the mobilization against the virus.  


In closing, we remind all of you to take the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy. We strongly encourage you to practice physical and social distancing. Now, more than ever, it is essential that each of us does what each of us can do: our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19. 


Kind regards, 


Jaime Watt 

Chair, Board of Governors 

OCAD University 


Dr. Sara Diamond, C.M., O.ON., R.C.A., ICD.D 

President and Vice-Chancellor 

OCAD University