As I write this column, I am joining millions of Canadians in the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 by working from home. While technology enables us to connect virtually to move our plans forward, I miss the collegiality and sense of community I get from working on campus and with our partners. This situation has reminded us about what’s truly important and, for me, has reinforced what a special place Laurier is. It is more than a collection of buildings on campuses: it is our dedicated and talented people and the many relationships we have forged across our communities.
When the novel coronavirus came to Ontario, my executive leadership team and I committed to keeping Laurier’s mission, vision and values at the centre of our decision-making. This values-driven framework is intended to keep Laurier connected to the qualities that make our university unique: an unwavering commitment to academic and research excellence with a dedicated focus on delivering an exceptional student experience.
Throughout the daily and weekly challenges that continue to evolve around us, we have done our best to maintain these values while following public health and other government directives. We couldn’t have accomplished what we have since the middle of March without the dedicated engagement of our faculty to transition their classes to a remote environment, staff support of all aspects of our operations (both as on-site essential workers and from their homes), and the hard work and resiliency of our students.
Laurier has always been a person-focused institution and this pandemic has offered us many opportunities to put people first. Initial decisions included moving all winter and spring term instruction online, limiting all on-campus personnel to essential service workers, and ensuring the safety of our students who needed to stay in residence while most of their peers moved back home.
Beyond our responsibilities to students, faculty and staff, we are recognizing our role as an anchor institution in our host communities. Wherever possible, Laurier has offered assistance to community partners, including the donation of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment to local healthcare providers, working to address healthcare system capacity through the use of our residence buildings, and applying our research and academic expertise to the pressing questions of government, media, businesses and local organizations as they adjust through these challenging times.
Throughout it all, we have been advocating for policies that will help our students at the local, provincial and federal level. I was encouraged by the federal government’s policy to support student incomes with a wage subsidy for summer jobs and volunteer positions in addition to a monthly summer guaranteed income for those who apply. I am thankful to the provincial government for its direct financial contribution to universities and colleges in March to address student mental health challenges and COVID-19-related health and safety protocols on campus.
Laurier’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund, generously supported by a leadership contribution from the Alumni Association, is being relied on to help deliver immediate relief to students who have lost their employment, students who require additional health and wellness support, and to make new investments in teaching and learning technologies to ensure continued student academic success while courses are delivered remotely.
Supporting our students through today’s challenges is critical to making sure they become tomorrow’s leaders. This remains our top priority. If you have the means to do so, please consider supporting the Emergency Fund to help ensure our students have the resources they need to complete their education.
If there was ever a time when we needed to live lives of leadership and purpose, it is now. I want to express my sincere gratitude to our alumni community for doing what you can to carry Laurier’s values of compassion, integrity and creativity beyond our campuses – thank you!
I know we will get through this together and be a stronger institution for the experience. I look forward to updating you about the 2020-21 academic year during the coming weeks and months. As always, you can keep up-to-date with our latest community initiatives by visiting our online Community Hub.
Be well and stay golden,
President and Vice-Chancellor
Wilfrid Laurier University