Monday, March 23, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that few have seen before, and like so many universities around the world, NSCAD has placed the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff at the forefront of all crisis plans and actions.
From early in the new year, we have taken steps to prepare and respond to the situation, based on direction from the Nova Scotia Public Health Authority, our regional health authorities and the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents (CONSUP). This was done in large part to ensure our students could safely complete the winter semester.
NSCAD’s Crisis Management Committee (whose membership for this crisis has been expanded to include representatives from all stakeholder groups) started meeting on February 10, 2020 to respond to the innumerable challenges associated with the imminent spread of COVID-19. Working closely with our partners, we began preparing for what would become the biggest challenge of our lifetimes, one that could reshape society for generations to come.
As part of our preparations, we have identified the need for clear and accurate communication as a top priority. We created a dedicated web page for news, updates and other information relating to COVID-19, and its direct impact on our university. The page includes FAQS for students, faculty, staff and the NSCAD community, and it is now a one-stop resource to find the latest updates on COVID-19 and how NSCAD is responding, with detailed information for students’ inquiries about courses, healthcare and international visas.
In response to concerns and questions from our students, faculty and staff, we introduced a NSCAD University International Travel Policy on March 10, 2020. This policy went into effect immediately, and applies to faculty, staff, students, and other persons participating in university or personal travel outside of Canada. The policy works to mitigate the risks associated with travel outside of Canada. We also developed a university Travel Authorization Request Form in order to monitor safety, comply with federal and provincial advisories, and authorize professional and educational travel.
On March 15, it had become obvious that in order to safely complete the term, all courses would need to move to remote or alternative delivery. On March 16, NSCAD’s Academic Senate met to deliberate on a new Notice of Restriction and Curriculum Completion Policy in response to COVID-19 and under the auspices of that newly adopted policy we suspended all classes for three days (March 16-18) to allow the university to prepare for a transition to remote and alternative forms of instruction. We also simultaneously suspended access to workshops and studios and cancelled all March Break camps.
Implementing the new Notice of Restriction and Curriculum Completion Policy enabled the university to continue classes without in-class instruction, while recognizing that there would be real, practical challenges for some students to do so remotely. As always, NSCAD faculty and staff remained committed to helping everyone get access and benefit from remote learning given the unprecedented circumstances.
To address the immediate and real concern of helping students safely retrieve work and/or equipment to complete projects, we worked with students, faculty and staff to help students pick up the equipment and materials needed to complete their courses via remote learning. Our solution included developing a Campus Access Authorization form at https://forms.nscad.ca/ to ensure we were able to maintain social distancing guidelines.
NSCAD’s Centre for Teaching and Learning helped to optimize the new e-learning environment for all students by providing technology-enabled instruction support to our faculty and students, working intensively with them to transition all NSCAD courses to remote delivery methods.
Beyond academic needs, we’re also working with the Students’ Union (SUNCAD) to aid students facing food insecurity, and we are helping those whose housing situation is affected by the crisis through the support of our community here in Nova Scotia. As an unimaginable week finally ended, we were able to repatriate the last of our international students and are very happy to share that all of them made it home.
As the COVID-19 crisis draws out in the coming weeks and months, we’ll address many important issues and challenges facing the NSCAD community, including:
We’ll also continue to promote support for students’ mental health and overall wellbeing through our website at https://navigator.nscad.ca/wordpress/wellness/.
As much as we all prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us imagined how sudden and critical the need for social distancing would become at NSCAD and around the world. Clearly these unprecedented circumstances have disrupted and unsettled countless lives, but by working together, we are meeting the challenge of our lifetimes with calm, intelligent responses. Our classes have resumed, our students continue to excel academically and artistically, and we are learning how the power of resilience can serve us in managing both great adversity and the challenges of everyday life.
Dr. Aoife Mac Namara
Dr. Ann-Barbara Graff
Vice President (Academic and Research)