An Open Letter

If you are an instructor in any of Canada’s post-secondary institutions, you have most likely already experienced the significant disruption that the COVID19 pandemic has caused. As I’ve written in previous posts, we are in uncertain and unprecedented times and the anxiety this is causing is very real. And those anxieties are particularly acute for our students. The question is, what should we do about this?

Personally, I believe it is our responsibility to protect our students as best we can, especially given the current situation. On its own COVID19 has completely disrupted the semester, having left students wondering how they might finish courses, and in some cases, degree programs.

In addition to these concerns, students may have family to care for, or they may be completely isolated from their loved ones. They may have financial challenges that have been made more severe by our current economic situation. They may be immunocompromised or with other accessibility issues. They may be working part time jobs that risk their ability to socially distance themselves. Or they may not have appropriate internet connections to successfully complete the semester.

The bottom line is that our students are facing incredible challenges, all with the spectre of finishing courses, assignments, and final exams looming over their heads. I know that I certainly wouldn’t want to be in their situation, and I honestly have no idea how I would manage the stress if I were.

And while many instructors are struggling with the stress of moving courses online and maintaining research programs while dealing with childcare, taking care of elderly parents, and the like, just imagine dealing with very similar issues with the limited resources of some of our students.

Fortunately, I find myself surrounded by other post-secondary instructors who are driven by their need to answer deep questions about our world and their need to protect our students. In particular, one group has come together to draft an open letter to the Presidents and Provosts of Canada’s post-secondary institutions to outline three measures to deal with the circumstances in which students currently find themselves. The measures (pulled directly from the letter) are to:

  • Cancel all future graded assignments in ongoing classes, or end classes outright.
  • Pass all students in a way that is equitable and meets student needs.
  • Make long-term plans for any challenges that this disruption might create for students and vulnerable faculty and staff.

The letter can be found here.

I signed this letter because I believe we have a responsibility and an opportunity to alleviate at least some of the anxieties that the COVID19 pandemic has caused our students, and it is in our power to do so. Our world continues to change in profound ways, and we need to hold fast to empathy and kindness. We need to lift people up. I believe the measures outlined in this letter achieve that.

If you are an academic, I encourage you to please read the letter. If you believe in it, please sign it by filling out this form.

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