Brock sustaining its mission despite pandemic: Fearon

A letter to the Brock community from University President Gervan Fearon

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to know how well our students have done during this period, and how our faculty and staff have supported your academic experience and success here at Brock.

As we enter the second half of April, I am happy to report that the 2020 Winter term exams are taking place online and on schedule. Looking ahead, students have transitioned well to the required new educational platforms and there is strong demand for our online offerings during the Spring and Summer terms.

The overall student experience represents positive signs indicating that, despite the profound changes we are all enduring through this pandemic, Brock University has upheld its core mission of providing academic excellence with a focus on student experience, while remaining committed to our partners across the region. We have supported the Niagara community’s efforts to address the pandemic, including by contributing personal protective equipment and exploring opportunities for the University’s facilities to be made available. We have certainly had to make many adjustments, and we owe significant gratitude to our students, faculty and staff for their understanding and assistance during this period.

The Fall term will soon be here, and Brock has begun the necessary planning. We are consulting with Faculties and Departments, and adhering to the collegial governance processes, including seeking appropriate Senate approval on academic matters. We are close to completing an academic plan for the Fall term and expect to be in a position to announce this soon.

Brock has seen significant development and growth over the past few years through an Academic Plan approved by the Senate and Board that has served as our beacon and motivation. The University is able to sustain its momentum and advance its reputation for dependability and academic excellence because of the efforts of thousands across the Brock community. Even during these challenging times, our staff and faculty members have been dedicated towards meeting our students’ needs and making the adjustments necessary to ensure we fulfil government and public health guidelines.

As the University has nearly all of its faculty and staff working from home, it is important to acknowledge and thank the many individuals who come to campus daily to maintain essential and necessary facilities and services. Together, campus security is maintained, residences and facilities are services and monitored, critical facilities are safely maintained, information updates are constantly produced and distributed, and Brock continues to provide sanctuary for a handful of students, from Canada and around the world, who cannot safely get home.

Universities are complex organizations, and it may be difficult for some to fully understand the difficulties entailed by abruptly suspending the physical operations of what amounts to a community of 25,000, while simultaneously changing how we continue to teach our academic programming. These significant adjustments can be stressful, even as Brock’s outstanding educational experience continues to be sustained through your efforts as faculty and staff, and your understanding as students and university community members.

I am deeply touched by, and appreciative of, the collaborative and problem-solving approach being taken at many different levels that keeps the University moving forward, from teaching and IT support, to providing mental health supports or making sure our financial functions can operate.

As the pandemic continues to evolve across Canada, here at Brock we are moving past the initial phase of reacting to urgent changes. We have moved on to a mitigation strategy that assures our operational and academic functionality, and we are working hard to return to an enhanced capacity of supporting the success of our students, faculty and staff as we move forward. We are taking into account that, as the second largest employer in the Niagara region, we have to make decisions that are in the interest of the community’s economic vitality as well as in support of the future direction and development of the University.

Just this week, our Prime Minister said restrictions across Canada will remain in place for untold weeks to come, continuing to test our social and economic fabric, and our psychological resilience. We know the post-COVID 19 world will look different from the one we knew before, however we have confidence in public health and in research being led by universities to find treatments and vaccines for addressing the lethal virus. Meanwhile, it is important that physical isolation does not mean social isolation, or a loss of hope in our capacity to get through these times.

One thing I do know is that Brock is an institution that makes decisions based on the values and principles stated in our strategic plan. We are a place that puts people first.

It is important that we remain steadfast in maintaining physical distancing and other measures, and just making smart decisions.

In the meantime, I find comfort in being part of the Brock community. We will get through this.

Sincerely,

Gervan Fearon


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