An open letter to new and continuing university students in B.C.

A letter from the provosts of British Columbia's research universities, including Dan Ryan, provost, University of Northern British Columbia; Andrew Szeri, provost, University of British Columbia; Jon Driver, provost, Simon Fraser University; Valerie Kuehne, provost, University of Victoria; William Holmes, provost, Royal Roads University; Christine Bovis-Cnossen, provost, Thompson Rivers University; Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, provost, University of British Columbia-Okanagan

June 12, 2020

COVID-19 may well be the defining event for your generation of university students. To help slow the pandemic’s spread, protect our health care system and save lives, B.C. universities joined institutions across the country in shifting courses and programming online. Though we look forward to opening our campuses to you and offering classes in-person when health officials say it is safe to do so, we remain as committed as ever to providing high-quality education in a safe environment.

Most of you will experience an online learning environment this fall, except for those situations where in-person experiences are essential to learning outcomes and can be managed safely. While many of you and your parents have let us know you are grateful that we have prioritized your health and safety, we also know some of you are concerned about the quality of learning that will occur outside the conventional classroom or laboratory.

We are confident that our faculty and instructors will provide you with quality learning experiences that will help build relationships, develop a sense of community wherever you are located, and give you the academic foundations you need for your life ahead.  We also want to reassure you that the thousands of committed staff who support you through counselling, academic advice, emotional and spiritual support, volunteer opportunities, career information, learning supports, financial aid, and in so many other ways are gearing up to stay connected and accessible in this new, primarily on-line environment.

If you are uncertain about what to do in the fall, know that we remain committed to providing you with the best learning experience possible. We have learning and teaching centres preparing to support you with navigating the online learning environment, including IT support, and most literature and learning resources can be obtained through our network of virtual libraries. Your opportunities to learn from leading experts in your field and broaden your intellectual horizons will still be available to you, regardless of where you are.

We know from talking with many of you that you value education and see it as a key step in gaining skills, experiences and knowledge for a fulfilling future. Your learning experiences this fall will also provide you with opportunities to explore different forms of communication, to engage with classmates and instructors in new ways, to build bridges to other cultures, and to experience the opportunities that technology can provide in connecting people, issues, and ideas. We look forward to considering these possibilities with you, and to involving you in creating new ways of discovering knowledge, examining ideas and thinking critically.

This is a very uncertain time for you and everyone planning to begin or resume university studies. We want you to know how excited we are to welcome you and how determined we are to provide you with the support you need to get the most out of your courses and programs. Whether you are learning online or in the classroom, know that a university education is one of the best investments of time and effort that you can make in your future.  We look forward to welcoming you in September.