Update from Dean Woodin about fall 2021

July 28, 2021 by A&S News

Dear A&S Students, Staff, and Faculty,

As I write to you all, I am amazed that we find ourselves with just one month of summer remaining. Undergraduate course enrolment is now well underway, and we continue to see positive momentum around the reopening of Ontario and our return to campus this fall, including the following: 

1. Vaccinations: With the success of the province-wide vaccination program and the thresholds achieved around vaccinations, the Government of Ontario moved to Step Three, the final stage of its Roadmap to Reopen, on July 16, expanding indoor gatherings and capacity limits. In a media release, the Government of Ontario also indicated the province would be in Step Three for at least 21 days, and that when 75 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received their second dose, “the vast majority of public health and workplace safety measures, including capacity limits for indoor and outdoor settings and limits for social gatherings, will be lifted.” 

This is an important milestone for our planning in Arts & Science and could be achieved as soon as early August. Within this framework, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has also indicated that all Ontario post-secondary institutions will be permitted to resume on-campus activities this fall without physical distancing or capacity limits on gatherings. Masks will continue to be required. In the weeks ahead, the University expects to receive more detailed guidance from the Ministry.

2. Advice from Public Health Experts: Ontario’s new Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, is strongly advocating for students to be vaccinated before September. In relation to our plans for in-person learning in Arts & Science, I continue to seek input and information about the latest scientific information from infectious disease epidemiologist Professor Ashleigh Tuite of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “It is incredible to see how many Ontarians are now vaccinated,” says Professor Tuite. “This is critical and it’s clear that citizens are doing their part to get vaccinated and to help correct misinformation about the efficacy of vaccines, so that we can suppress COVID-19. Please everyone, keep going — we are getting there because of you!”

3. U of T Planning: The University continues to implement measures on all three campuses to support our return to on-campus activities. Special attention is also being given to designate spaces for students to connect with their online classes in between their in-person classes, as well as increased technical supports for instructors. Information about these resources will be available closer to the start of term. 

The University is also monitoring the progress on visa processing and international travel. Even with numbers and conditions continuing to improve here in Ontario and across Canada generally, situations are different in other parts of the world. Senior leaders are collaborating with members of the Provincial and Federal Governments around international student arrivals and vaccinations. Any international students with concerns about travel limitations should consult the Centre for International Experience website, and contact your college registrar for academic advising if you believe travel issues in your country may affect your ability to arrive for the start of the Fall Term. Please also continue to check these websites below for the latest University-wide information. 

As noted in my last message, all students in Arts & Science will be permitted to attend their classes online from the start of the Fall Term on September 9, until and including September 23. I am incredibly grateful to instructors for their responsiveness on this issue, and to the students who have written me with feedback. There are no perfect solutions, but my hope is this will help with the transition back to campus and give students some extra time to arrive and get settled. 

Looking ahead, please know that I will be in touch again before September if there are any major changes in the provincial reopening that may impact our plans. For specific information about Arts & Science, please continue to consult the UTogether at A&S website, including the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for undergraduate students.

While we are not there yet, it is reassuring to see how the reopening plans have progressed. No doubt there will still be challenges between now and September, and throughout the coming year. We must continue to be ready to adapt as Ontario’s reopening unfolds.

And my hope is that, as a global community, we continue to gain traction toward ending this pandemic and that all of us within the U of T will get back the meaningful connections, independence, and experiences we crave as individuals and as a community.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the summer and look forward to seeing you in September.

Best Regards,

Dean Woodin

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