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March 15: COVID-19 Message from President Diamond

To all the members of the OCAD University community,

In light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, I emphasize once again that the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is the number one priority at OCAD University.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are working as quickly and effectively as possible to best respond to our students and the institution’s needs, and act on advice from Toronto’s and Ontario’s public health authorities.

I remind you that OCAD U buildings will close as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 until Friday, April 24 with limited exceptions for critical functions. I express my profound appreciation to the entire OCAD U community for their effective mobilization and cooperation as we move towards the closure of our physical campus and transition to forms of online delivery and services as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18.

We made the decision to close in the best interests of the health and safety of students, faculty and staff, and in response to the recent decision by the Government of Ontario to close all public schools. We join many other universities in Canada and abroad in taking the proactive measure of closing our campus and moving to virtual platforms.

I thank our students for their ongoing understanding and patience as we respond to a very challenging situation. The University is working diligently on alternate forms of delivery to enable the completion of the term and graduation, and ensure that research can continue. At this point, there is no intention to extend the term.

In today’s update, the first of many, I provide a summary of the University’s response and an update.

I encourage you to check your email regularly since this will be our primary form of communication. We will also continue to share information on the employee and student portals, and on the OCADU.ca/coronavirus web page.

All face-to-face academic and research activities suspended until April 24, 2020

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, all face-to-face classes, as well as physical access to studios, laboratories and libraries, are suspended until April 24, 2020. However, there are provisions in place for students to pick up their work and belongings, please see below for more details (under Studio access).

Events

I remind you that all events in University facilities have been cancelled as of Monday, March 16 until April 24, in addition to GradEx 105, which had been scheduled from April 29 to May 3. We continue to consult with the community regarding alternate opportunities for this graduate showcase.

Information shared with faculty members

Faculty members have received communications from Caroline Langill, Provost and Vice-President Academic, and their respective Deans outlining guidance and resources to assist them in moving to alternate forms of delivery to enable the completion of the term and graduation. They will continue to share information on an ongoing basis. Read the recent message from the Provost on the employee portal here.

From March 16 to 20, we will pause in the delivery of curriculum. Faculty members are developing alternate means of delivering course content, communicating with students and assessing work that will enable students to complete the term. Students should hear from their instructors by Friday, March 20.

In the meantime, there is no expectation of holding classes online in real-time at the regularly scheduled class time. 

IT Services and the Faculty & Curriculum Development Centre will offer training and support to help faculty deliver course content remotely. IT Services will continue to offer technical support and answer general questions about Canvas through ITHelp@ocadu.ca.

Information update to students, including international students

Earlier today (March 15), Deanne Fisher, Vice-Provost of Students & International, emailed all students with an update regarding classes, access to shops and studios (including working in the studios and access to storage, lockers and students’ work). An update to this communication regarding studio access is included further in this email. Please check OCADU.ca/coronavirus for other details.  

International students

We understand the urgency of travel planning for international students choosing to return to their home country early. As long as students have their computer and good Internet connection, they should be able to do so. Students should advise their instructors in advance of leaving.

Universities Canada, our national association, is working with the Government of Canada to develop visa procedures that respond to the COVID-19 crisis and we will share information when it becomes available.

Student support during the closure 

Staff members across the University’s service areas will be working from home throughout the closure and we are finalizing models for remote service delivery. In the meantime, students can contact all our service areas by email. You can find more information on student support and the emails on the OCADU.ca/coronavirus web page.

Change in studio access

Students will no longer be able to finalize work-in-progress in the studios. However, students will be able to retrieve work-in-progress from shops and studios, including the Fabrication Centre, and from their lockers.  The University will make every effort to be open from Monday, March 16 to Wednesday, March 18:

  • Monday, March 16: 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 17: 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 18: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  
  • This was a difficult decision. We made this change to ensure safer social distance for students and staff as COVID-19 accelerates. Please check final studio hours to pick up your work via the studio’s Canvas page (for those who have them), the Shops & Studios web page, or locally posted signage.  

Campus operations – essential services

While OCAD University will be closed from 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 to Friday, April 24, we will continue to maintain essential services and will be notifying these employees accordingly.

Regular university operations will continue through primarily work-at-home arrangements. Details are rolling out to departments and faculties. Vice-presidents will exercise discretion regarding working from home protocols as of Monday, March 16.

Student Wellness Centre access will be announced during this week.  

Faculty and staff have until 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 18 to remove materials and/or belongings from their offices or labs.

Research

Access to physical laboratories will be restricted from 5 p.m. March 18 until April 24, 2020. We encourage faculty members to continue their research through virtual means and to maintain virtual contact and engagement with research assistants through this period.

We also ask that faculty members remove all essential material for continuation by this time, and/or update research plans to work on a virtual platform. The Research Office will maintain virtual operations and more information will be shared by Robert Luke, Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

Travel – Reminder

All employees are asked to refrain from all non-essential travel. As previously requested, all employees are asked to report to hr@ocadu.ca if they have travelled, including personal travel and provide the location of travel.

Employee Support

I realize that staff and faculty may be affected by this rapidly evolving situation. Employees can seek support and counselling through OCAD U’s Employee Assistance Program offered through LifeWorks. This is a free, confidential assessment and referral services available to all of our employees (24 hours a day, seven days a week). Shazia Hussain, HR Employee Wellness & Equity Advisor, is also available to provide any assistance to employees at shussain@ocadu.ca

Reminder: Help prevent the spread of germs

We ask all the members of our community, if you are ill, please stay at home.

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms associated with the virus please visit the Toronto Public Health website for instructions. Employees should inform their immediate supervisor. For students, please email Student Wellness Centre at swc@ocadu.ca.

Prevention is key in stopping the spread of illness and one of the best ways is to wash your hands often with soap and water for a least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer. 


Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are ill; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands; if you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Stay Connected 

We will share regular updates by email, so please check your email regularly. We will continue to post announcements on the employee and student portals, social media channels and the OCADU.ca/coronavirus web page.

Questions?

We have posted frequently asked questions on the OCAD University website at OCADU.ca/coronavirus and these will be updated regularly.

For questions or concerns regarding COVID-19, please email Kaye Ferrer, the University’s Environmental Health and Safety Advisor, who has been designated as the primary contact. She can be reached at kferrer@ocadu.ca.

Once again, I extend my sincere thank you to all the members of our community for their ongoing patience and understanding, especially all the members of our community who are working tirelessly and diligently to coordinate our response and actions regarding COVID-19. I thank OCAD University’s Senate Executive Committee for its unanimous endorsement of our strategy. I thank our bargaining units for their assistance in this tough time.

While this is indeed a very challenging situation, I believe that together as a community – along with our actions – OCAD U is demonstrating resiliency and determination to ensure that students complete their term and to do our part to ensure the health and safety of all the members of our community.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Sara Diamond, C.M., O.ONT., R.C.A.

President and Vice-Chancellor