Dear Arts & Science community,
I am delighted to welcome you to the start of the 2020-21 academic year. Whether you are returning or are new to our community, I know you have been preparing for this term under particularly challenging conditions. Despite these unprecedented times, you have shown incredible resilience and determination and I am very proud of how our community has come together.
During these last several months you have responded to this pandemic with compassion, innovation, and tremendous fortitude. Planning for the start of this academic year has been like no other time in our history, underscored by many uncertainties and challenges we face collectively and in our individual lives. We also know this is a fluid situation — that at times feels unrelenting — and that we must be flexible and ready to adapt our plans as needed. I am inspired by your resolve and I want to thank you for your patience and collaborative spirit in the face of such adversity.
While this term at A&S will look different from any other Fall term, I am confident that the year ahead will be full of successes and rewarding experiences. Please know I am committed to ensure you receive the support and resources you need as we continue to navigate together. You can find updates and information about various resources on the Guide to Fall 2020 at U of T, including UCheck, a new COVID-19 self-assessment web portal for anyone who will be on campus.
As I enter the second year of my term as Dean, I am intensely focused on how we will thrive and weather this storm, and how we will move forward on the many initiatives and opportunities outlined in our academic plan. We are one of the largest academic divisions in the world. We can draw on our combined knowledge and leadership in the humanities, sciences and social sciences in order to help foster a world that embraces equity, diversity and inclusivity and to make a real impact on the issues that face our society.
The start of this academic year is also an important time to reaffirm our shared commitment to creating a more inclusive A&S community where we stand together and use our voices and actions to renounce systemic violence and anti-Black racism, and all racism. This week on September 9 and 10, academic colleagues across Canada are holding Scholar Strike, a program of public digital teach-ins, to acknowledge and protest against police brutality, violence and injustices continually faced by Black, Indigenous and racialized people. The Faculty’s classes continue, as scheduled on September 10, however there are a range of events planned and ways to participate. You can find more information on the Scholar Strike website.
Finally, I want you to know I am thinking of you all and wish you well as we start the term. I am excited by what we can accomplish together and I look forward to engaging with you throughout the year, and throughout my term, to enhance the A&S experience for all students, faculty, staff and our more than 260,000 alumni. Let’s aim to look back on 2020-21 as a time that challenged us but did not defeat us in our ability to engage with each other to pursue knowledge, and to position ourselves for brighter roads together ahead.
Melanie A. Woodin
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science
Professor, Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto