Dear Students, Parents and Community Members,
I have some news of the most recent update on teaching in Fall 2021.
I am sure that you are as tired as I am of the seemingly endless churn around course setup and potential strategies for this fall. I’m writing to you to let you know what our current situation is, and give you some information on how we got here.
The current situation:
Yesterday, August 30, course instructors received a memo from the Provost indicating that, due to the delta variant of the COVID virus, that instructors are finally allowed to request course delivery modes that are aligned with some ability to manage COVID exposures and overall health. The memo is attached to this email for your reference.
The options that have been provided for instructors to select from are the following:
- defer face-to-face instruction until September 28
- move classes with greater than 75% capacity to either hybrid or fully remote instruction
- fully remote instruction as a medical or other accommodation.
A number of people will be angry with this menu of offerings:
- Some students want a real face-to-face experience, and feel that you have been promised that this would be safely provided and readily available. You may be among the many people have spent considerable money paying for accommodation and moving to Guelph for this purpose.
- Some students have been afraid of coming to campus since the term was announced, and feel that your completely valid concerns about health and risk to family members have been completely dismissed, and you are being forced into an unsafe classroom plan.
- Some instructors are equally afraid of coming to class, and feel that you are being forced into an unsafe classroom, and that from there you are likely to take COVID home and endanger your children under 12.
- Some instructors feel that you have been promised a safe return to face-to-face teaching, and are now angry that a surprising about-face is being presented less than two weeks before class.
Everyone is perfectly justified in feeling angry about this situation. I am also angry, especially given how we have ended up in this situation.
How we got here:
This situation has been created by the senior decision makers at the University of Guelph wilfully ignoring any of the high quality information available for planning for over four months, and then attempting to force their desired strategy of a face-to-face semester on the entire community.
Information on both the delta variant and likely vaccination possibilities have been available since June. In spite of this, the Provost, President and senior Vice-Presidents of the University of Guelph have created and are still driving us to follow a plan that they have freely admitted was created with NO REGARD for the current scientific information whatsoever.
I am both angry and embarrassed to admit that the senior leadership at the University of Guelph would ignore science as a way to inform their decision making. Instead, our upper administration has made it very clear that their decisions have been informed by discussions with Ontario government officials, and and some columns written by a popular economist.
Without science based decision making, we are now in significant danger, and safer and better options have been taken off the table by tardy and poor decision making.
There is absolutely no reason that it had to be this way.
There were safe and sensible plans available. I, and a number of other faculty, staff and students have been trying to get a safe and well-designed plan on the table since discussions in April. A full vaccine mandate has been championed since June, when it became possible.
Instead, and because the senior admin has completely refused to discuss their planning and has completely blocked any discussion about COVID management — we are now here.
So I would say: you are all correct to be angry. Both your safety and your ability to have face-to-face experiences have been thrown away, with no input on your part.
So be very angry — but please do not be angry with your course instructors.
You have been invited by the Provost to lay the blame there — you will see in the attached memo that the Provost has pitched the delivery of this decision to make it seem as though whatever crappy course delivery strategy is actually chosen, that it is the fault of the instructor that a better option was not used — but the reality is that we have been fighting to have a better menu of options for months.
Now that we are down to the wire, all of the options are awful.
So if you are angry, be angry — but I would invite you to write to the Provost to indicate why you are angry: https://www.uoguelph.ca/vpacademic/
Many people have been championing good options since April — what we are left with is this unworkable mess.
On behalf of all of us at the U of G who really do care about student health, wellness, success, engagement and experience, I would like to say that I am very sorry that we are all now going to have an experience this fall that is so very much poorer than it needed to be.
I will also say on behalf of the entire community — we will help you get through this. If you are struggling, please reach out. We are all in this together.