From the President’s Desk: Two Weeks into COVID-19 Response

To the University of Alberta Community:

Image for Post

To the University of Alberta Community:

Today marks two weeks since the University of Alberta decided to suspend in-person classes and exams and begin the move to remote delivery. Since then, an enormous amount of work and change has occurred in a very short period of time. The move to remote delivery of classes alone is a massive effort — but that was only the beginning.

Almost all faculty and staff are now working in remote home offices; in many disciplines researchers have prepared and implemented plans for ramping down lab and field activities; many of our students have moved out of residence; and all of our students and instructors have been adapting to major changes to grading and assessment.

Our efforts are part of a much bigger provincial, national, and global effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent unmanageable demand on our healthcare systems. Your willingness to step up and do what needs to be done — in spite of the personal cost and stress — speaks volumes about the values that guide us as a university. Thank you for all that you are doing to help each other and our university through this crisis.

To our students: I know that the change to a credit/no credit grading system has been the source of particular concern for many of you. I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is no perfect solution to this situation. We decided on this course of action because we believe it is the best way to ensure equity among all our students and preserve academic integrity in these challenging circumstances. As this situation continues, more and more students will inevitably become directly or indirectly affected. They, or close family members, may become ill. Others may lose jobs and the means to support themselves. Many but not all of our students have had to take time out to move. International students find themselves in especially complex situations that mobilize much of their attention and energy. Any grade earned will increasingly reflect the conditions in which students may find themselves rather than their level of effort and talent.

To address some of these issues, SU president Akanksha Bhatnagar sat down with Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos and Vice-provost and Registrar Melissa Padfield for a virtual conversation to talk about your concerns. You can see that conversation here.

I also want to highlight that 11 research teams at the U of A have been awarded a total of nearly $6 million in special CIHR funding to pursue COVID-related research. This is another inspiring example of how members of our community are turning on a dime and responding. That they can is testament to the foundation of excellence built up over decades — with that in place the U of A can be ready to act quickly and play a leading role in the global research effort to find better assessments and treatments as well as a vaccine.

I’ve noted many times over the last two weeks that we are in uncharted territory and need to continue to prepare for future action, including the possibility of moving to essential services only. We are having to make decisions with imperfect and uncertain information, in a situation that is constantly evolving, which is never comfortable. We continue to learn as we go, and I want to thank you again for adapting so well to constantly changing circumstances, for exercising patience and understanding, and for supporting each other with kindness and compassion.

I hope you are able to rest and recharge over the weekend.

David H. Turpin
President and Vice-chancellor