April 2, 2020
Dear members of the McMaster community,
Living close to the university means that on most evenings I am able to take a walk around campus, keeping the required distance from anyone else, of course. That isn’t difficult to do. Although there are lights still glowing in labs and in residence buildings where international students are living, campus is quiet – incredibly quiet.
In some ways it is peaceful, but I much prefer it when our campus is buzzing with activity.
Campus just isn’t the same without students.
This isn’t the way that any of us thought the academic term would finish. While virtual classrooms and online assessments will give all our students the opportunity to finish their courses and earn their credits, we are all missing the face-to-face connections with friends and colleagues. I want to thank all of our instructors and faculty members for working so hard to move their programs to virtual classrooms. I also want to thank our students for being open to new ways of learning and completing assignments and research programs in different ways.
The requirement to move away from campus on short notice and before the end of term, and being separated suddenly from friends, mentors and instructors only adds to the disruption for our students. We know that for many, financial concerns are weighing heavily, alongside worries about parents, grandparents and other family members. Like you, we are all in the process of adjusting to physical distancing and staying at home most of the time, and as a community we are facing the future with more uncertainty than we have probably ever experienced.
I know that many of you are deeply disappointed that we are not able to hold an in-person convocation this spring. I share that disappointment, as do our faculty. Convocation is one of the high points of our year. We take enormous pride in celebrating the achievements of our students and we share in the joy of your family and friends as you walk across the stage. While convocation cannot happen in person right now, people across the University are working hard to create a virtual convocation this spring, and there will be in-person events this fall that will be as memorable as McMaster’s usual graduation ceremonies. We’re looking forward to sharing the details with our graduating class soon, and to celebrating your success in novel and creative ways.
As a University community we recognize the need to support our students in other important ways too. We have staff working with students in need of emergency financial assistance and have increased the funds available to help if students find themselves unable to pay their rent, buy food or manage other necessities.
Other areas across campus are also connecting with our students to make sure they know they are not alone and that there are many people willing to help. Faculty members in Science are sharing photos of their makeshift home offices with students, along with notes of support and encouragement. Student leaders from the McMaster Students Union, the Graduate Student Association and the McMaster Association of Part-time Students are working hard to ensure that the concerns of students are brought to the attention of the University administration.
We don’t yet have the answers to many of the questions that are being asked. But we are working through the issues one by one and we are committed to supporting the students who are at the core of our mission, and to celebrating all that they have achieved.
My thanks to each one of you, as we navigate our way through these challenging days.