Senate: University planning for more on-campus delivery in winter term

Course selection could be delayed to mid-August

Principal Deane told Senate the University is now moving to normalize operations as much as possible while adhering the public health guidelines.
Journal File Photo

In their last meeting of the academic year on May 19, Senate gathered on video-chat platform Zoom to discuss operations for the fall term.

Provost’s report

At Senate, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green said the University is planning for “much more of an on-campus delivery” in the winter term, but added this framework has no certainties.

According to Green, present physical distancing measures are “likely to persist” into the fall, leading the University to plan for the remote delivery of most undergraduate classes. The University has also created a course timetable in the event that normal, in-person course delivery can occur, though he added this scenario is “highly unlikely.” 

“We are doing our planning moving forward with remote delivery options,” Green said. “[We are] encouraging all faculties to be planning in that direction.”

Green said the shape of the fall term will largely depend on what physical distancing measures look like in September and, consequently, what the University’s classroom capacity is at that time.

He added that, regardless of remote delivery, the University is looking into the possibility of special, in-person activities on campus that could take place with physical distancing restrictions. He did not reference specific activities that could happen.

Green also discussed enrolment ahead of the June 1 acceptance deadline. At the time of the Senate meeting, the University had received approximately 2500 first-year undergraduate acceptances—about half of the number expected by the deadline. 

This number is lower than the number of offers that had been accepted at the same time last year. However, according to Green, this scenario is expected because the deadline for out-of-province acceptances was extended from May 1 to June 1.

Domestic graduate acceptances are 13 per cent higher than last year and international graduate acceptances are up by 15 per cent.

“[I]t’s hard to know exactly how all of it will play out over the summer with the changing conditions with different delivery mechanisms, and whether people will change their decision or even be able to come, in terms of international students,” Green added, noting some of the University’s identified risks to enrolment.

Green also said the University is concerned about the ability of students in different time zones to access course material.

John Pierce, vice-provost (teaching and learning), added the University is having “ongoing discussions” about this concern with the faculties. He said course selection will likely be delayed to mid-August, as the University needs more time to complete the altered timetable.

Principal’s report

“The important aspect of this enterprise, in my view, is to make sure that we come out of the COVID-19 period,” Principal Patrick Deane said in his report to Senate. “We will come out of it changed. But we do need to come out of it strong, and whole, and with a very clear sense of direction.”

Deane said while Queen’s is planning for remote delivery in the fall, the University cannot know for certain what the fall term will look like given the ever-changing nature of the virus.

“Not all questions that people might want to put at this time have an easy answer,” he said. “We are still looking into a crystal ball with regard to the fall, the winter term, and beyond.”

Regarding convocation, Deane said formal, in-person convocation will occur at a delayed date, with all faculties intending to hold virtual graduation celebrations in the meantime. 

Deane also said research labs on campus are slowly re-opening.

“The University is beginning to think about what is loosely referred to across the province as ‘opening up,’” he said. “We are now moving to normalize operations as much as possible.” 

Motions passed

Senate also approved the establishment of a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Major and Medial in Indigenous Studies. The degree, effective on Sept. 1, will be offered through the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LLCU) in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

The Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP) received permission to deviate from the approved 2020-21 sessional dates framework, allowing the Committee to adjust the scheduling of the 2020 fall term break. The break may be extended to more than two days in length, given the possible changes induced by COVID-19.

“We assume students will have challenges adjusting to this new learning system, and may need a longer period to catch up on assignments,” Pierce said. 

“Instructors may be dealing with a new mode of delivery […] and it might be advantageous for them to have an additional period of time to make adjustments and respond to students’ concerns as they move through the term.”

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