Message from Dean Woodin about fall 2021 planning

April 28, 2021 by A&S News

Dear A&S Students, Staff, and Faculty,

In early March, President Gertler shared a message with the U of T community about fall 2021 and his optimism that most academic activities would take place on campus. Following this announcement, the Faculty of Arts & Science began planning for a return to in-person learning, and I want to provide you with an update on where we are today.

Given the importance of in-person learning to the student experience, we are planning for most Arts & Science courses to take place in person in September. However, I want to stress that our planning is tentative because, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, we will only return to in-person learning if Public Health permits us to do so.

Students, staff, and faculty are therefore naturally asking, "When will Arts & Science make a final decision about in-person learning for the fall?" I certainly understand why this is a critical question. For students, the answer may affect travel and housing plans, and decisions about course selections. Instructors need to determine how they will prepare to teach their courses. Many of you are trying to make time-sensitive decisions.

I wish I could give you more definitive information now but given that we are still months away from the start of the fall term, it is too early to know if we will have to adjust our plans. However, I am committed to providing everyone in the Arts & Science community with as much information as possible, as soon as possible, and will update you minimally once a month on May 26, June 23, and July 28 on the status of our plans. Each of these updates will consider the following three factors, which will continue to inform our decision-making:

  1. Vaccinations: We will monitor progress towards vaccinations in the Province of Ontario, including on this public vaccination tracking website developed by researchers at U of T.
  2. Advice from Public Health Experts: We will consult public health experts, including infectious disease epidemiologist Professor Ashleigh Tuite of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Professor Tuite is a member of the Ontario Modelling Consensus Table for COVID-19 and has been regularly featured in local and national media, providing her professional advice on the pandemic as a public health researcher and expert in the field.
  3. U of T Planning Process: Our planning in Arts & Science is tightly linked to the University-wide COVID-19 planning, including with regards to residences, international student arrival, new student orientation and classroom preparations. 

In addition to watching for these monthly updates, I encourage students, staff, and faculty to continue to check our UTogether at A&S website for more information, including the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that are regularly updated for undergraduate students.

I know that the uncertainty in our plans for the fall presents challenges for your own personal planning, and I thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this complex situation together.

To current undergraduate and graduate students, you are nearly there, and I wish you all the best in completing the term. To all teaching assistants and instructors, I thank you for your dedication to our students throughout this very difficult year. And to all our staff and academic and administrative leaders, I know how hard you have all been working to support our students and researchers. Thank you everyone. I am so proud of how our Faculty has come together to make the best of this situation.

To all our newly admitted students who are making plans to join us for the first time, I welcome you and look forward to your official arrival in our community.

Until my next update, take good care.

Best Regards,

Dean Woodin

Melanie A. Woodin
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science
Professor, Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto