Senate: Principal talks remote homecoming, virtual convocation in fall term

Queen’s to prioritize reopening West Campus Education Library

Principal Patrick Deane addressed current COVID-19 concerns.
Journal File Photo

Queen’s Senate started the 2020-21 year with a meeting on Sept. 29 through video-chat platform Zoom.

Principal Patrick Deane addressed current COVID-19 concerns, telling Senate that while students are “overwhelmingly” being cooperative, the University has had to deal with “a certain number of students” testing Public Health guidelines.

“It’s become obvious that even with a small number of students returning for in-person classes, a relatively large number of students returned to Kingston anyway,” Deane said.

“So the University’s had to deal with some of the challenges that flow from that. The public health challenge, the uncertainties and anxieties which understandably and legitimately preoccupy members of the Kingston community more broadly, and then the desire of students to return to University and pick up their student lives.”

Deane drew attention to the new Incident Command Structure, implemented to deal with COVID-19 issues as they arise, and told Senate the University is continuing to work “very closely” with the City of Kingston and Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health.

READ MORE: Following City Council frustration, Principal Deane warns students about consequences of misbehaviour

He also said Homecoming 2020 will occur completely remotely on Oct. 17 and that in-person convocation isn’t scheduled to happen this fall. 

Deane added the University will “probably” hold a virtual convocation like they did in the spring, and invite individual faculties to hold online celebrations.

Deane also provided an update on the Conversation series he launched last October to hear from the University community about their future hopes for Queen’s. He said the Conversations—which ranged from individual consultations to public forums—went “extremely well,” even during the COVID-19 pandemic. No in-person discussions have taken place since the pandemic started in early winter.

He told Senate he’ll be releasing a report on this Conversation in the next couple weeks, adding the report explores Queen’s mission and broader trends across the university sector.

READ MORE: Principal Deane calls Queen’s global rankings ‘depressing’

Deane said that, in the report, he will also address the issue of racism at Queen’s “in as frank and head-on a way as possible.”

“The language around this tends to favour the word, the adjective ‘systemic,’ but the problems on our campus are not just systemic—there are significant systemic challenges, but there are interpersonal, individual instances of racism that we have seen testified to.” 

Provost’s report

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green told Senate the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Task Force will be reviewing feedback on the proposed amendments to the Sexual Violence policy, which were due by Oct. 1. 

Green also said enrolment data is “very strong” and is on track to meet Senate-approved domestic targets. He said international enrolment is down this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but domestic enrolment has increased to mitigate this problem.

Responding to a question about whether the University is considering remote delivery in the 2021 summer term, Green said the University hasn’t made any decisions yet.

“I guess as things have taught us so far, it is hard to plan in advance with any great certainty,”      he said.

“We are gradually going to increase the capacity [of study spaces on campus] as the demand increases, assuming we are able to keep the number of cases, et cetera, in control.” 

Michael Vandenburg, interim vice-provost and university librarian, added that the University is prioritizing the reopening of the Education Library on West Campus, so students living on West Campus have access to a study space.

The University will then consider opening a reserved reading room in one of the larger areas in Douglas Library so students can access print materials for on-campus courses. 

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