Coronavirus update: December 7, 2020 - 9:15 a.m.

December 7, 2020

Whenever we make decisions in leadership, we must be open to new information and where appropriate adjust our course. With that in mind, I, along with the executive team, have taken the opportunity to assess our approach around the upcoming winter semester start date. Our initial goal was to ensure disruption to the Winter term was minimized and to not add additional stress to our community, especially our students, which we have observed to be significant during the Fall semester. Added importance was placed on ensuring our University community retained the mid-winter break to rest and recharge, which is critical.

Feedback from our community has prompted us to re-think the winter term start date. I plan to take the following items as a proposal to an extraordinary meeting of Senate, which I will call for this week.

  • Classes for the 2021 Winter semester will begin on Monday Jan. 11 and end on Monday, April 19.  Exceptions to this may be required for some programs and we will work with Deans to identify potential challenges.
  • The University will open as usual on Jan. 4. This will allow faculty an extra week to prepare for the unique teaching and learning environment we have developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also allow our staff an extra week to prepare supports for students returning to classes.
  • The mid-semester break will remain in place from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19.
  • The delayed five days will be made up through a combination of flexibility in the exam period and delaying the start of the spring session. More precise details will be provided early next year.

With the later start of classes, however, we must guard against adding extra course material and expectations beyond the normal, as this was clearly identified in a survey of the student body in their experience for the Fall semester that added significant stress. 

My request that we all limit meetings between Dec. 21 and 23 remains. The University will close starting Dec. 24 for the Holiday break as planned, re-opening on Jan. 4 utilizing the President's discretionary holidays as has been the practice at UNBC for many years. It is extremely important to me that staff and faculty can wind up things and head into the holiday break as best as possible after what has been a tremendously difficult academic term. 

There is no perfect decision in these very uncertain and difficult times; know that I, along with the executive team strive to balance the ever-changing circumstances and information to make the best decisions for our entire community. I appreciate the feedback I received (whether you agreed or disagreed with the initial decision, the feedback was respectful and constructive) and I do appreciate your patience as our community adapts and responds to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. I have spoken a lot over the past nine months about the resilience and adaptable spirit of the UNBC community that has been absolutely tested by this pandemic and I hear that in your voices. Please remember we are all in this together and we will get through it!

Stay safe, and thank you!

Geoff Payne
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor

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