Earlier today, university leaders held a faculty and staff town hall, addressing topics from campus safety measures to in person components expected for fall 2021.
More than 200 questions were submitted in advance of the town hall and during the livestream. Faculty and staff had the opportunity to upvote questions, which informed popular topics to be addressed by leaders during the forum. With over 800 viewers, the town hall brought together academic and operational university leaders to share what McMaster is planning for the gradual transition back to campus.
In case you missed it, please see a recording of the livestreamed event below as well as a summary of key topics covered.
Please note that information shared during the June 18 faculty and staff town hall is accurate at the time of recording.
As an institution, we are committed to being flexible and agile in this ever-evolving environment. With that, the information we share with our community will continue to evolve and be consistently updated via the Back to Mac website.
For administrative and support functions, the university is taking a “remote first” approach to fall. This means that many areas can continue to operate remotely with minimal onsite presence, allowing resources to be allocated to students for in-person learning where possible. For student and Faculty services, the university will be asking students to first connect remotely with that unit or office to determine if an online or in-person appointment is needed.
Each department and faculty will be determining the appropriate level of onsite presence for their area, and we all need to expect that the fall will continue to be a transitional time. Looking to the future, McMaster is evaluating learning from the pandemic, and pilot arrangements through the fall that address employee wellness and the services.
McMaster leadership is asking leaders to be inclusive and understanding of staff needs for flexibility, especially during the fall, and explore new ways of working where possible.
In spring 2021, MacPherson Institute hired 21 temporary positions to help support the increased remote teaching needs from our instructors, faculty, and staff across McMaster. Many of these supports will be extended until the spring of 2022. This continuation will ensure instructors and faculty continue to have support as they prepare courses for hybrid and flexible teaching environments.
As vaccinations rates across Hamilton and Ontario continue to increase and COVID-19 case counts continue to fall, teams across McMaster are planning for Winter 2022 term to be in-person, with optimism that on-campus life and learning activities will be very close to pre-pandemic operations.
McMaster will continue to bring staff back to campus gradually to support these activities but will be applying the lessons learned through the last year and a half of virtual work to continue to innovate into the future. The pandemic has changed the way we all operate, and McMaster is seeking to harness these lessons on increased flexibility and new working arrangements.
Distancing & masking: McMaster will continue to follow the local, provincial, and federal public health directives of masking, including by fully vaccinated people. For now, the rule is that people must be masked indoors in any setting regardless of vaccine status, and in outdoor settings when 2 metre/6 feet distance cannot be maintained.
Outdoor gathering spaces with seating (Adirondack chairs, picnic tables, benches, stones) will be introduced to allow for maximum utilization of green spaces on campus.
Screening: In accordance with Provincial guidelines, anyone coming to campus will need to complete the Ontario COVID-19 self-assessment before arriving.
Vaccinations are strongly encouraged but not required. The single most important contribution by staff, faculty and students to protect themselves and each other is to get fully vaccinated, optimally prior to working or studying on campus. McMaster has collaborated closely with Hamilton Public Health to determine the plan for community vaccinations.
Ventilation & Cleaning: McMaster is assessing and making any required updates to the ventilation systems in buildings on campus. The Facilities team will be maximizing fresh air and keeping recirculated air to a minimum indoors. High standard filters are being installed in buildings where air recirculation exists and replaced regularly. McMaster’s team of custodians will vigorously clean high touchpoint surfaces at an increased frequency. Teams will clean every classroom and lecture hall nightly, including treating these spaces with electrostatic disinfectant spray. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be available in every classroom and lecture hall for personal use.
Eating lunch: Provincial and Public Health require that masks must be worn in all indoor spaces?on campus, which means lunch should not be eaten at your desk. The employee lounges or additional outdoor spaces mentioned above are open with appropriate signage communicating health and safety requirements. If you have a private office that you occupy by yourself, and the door can be locked, you are able to remove your mask to eat there.
Encouraging and reinforcing safety measures: In keeping with kindness and respect for others, McMaster is taking multi-pronged approach of education, frequent reminders, posted signage, and information sharing to ensure compliance with masking. If you encounter someone who is not wearing a mask or face shield, it is advised that you ensure you maintain a physical distance of at least 2 meters and that you speak with your supervisor.
The default for researchers is to work from home when possible. Earlier this week, the research community moved to an updated phase two, which allows for increased activity for on campus or field research with approval from associate or vice dean of research, and in some cases from the research office. In addition, the Office of VP Research will be hosting COVID-recovery conversations to understand pandemic impacts on research. The research website will include updates throughout the coming months to reflect any changes.
McMaster planning teams are considering some flexible parking pass options to accommodate new or increasing levels of in-person activities on campus beginning in the fall. Teams are finalizing the details for offering part-time passes to new or existing parking pass holders at a reduced rate for the fall term. More information about this will be announced in the coming weeks. Leaders are asked to consider modified public transit schedules in their planning for hybrid or on campus work schedules.
The Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO) will continue to communicate McMaster’s commitment to ensure students, faculty and staff can learn and work in campus environments that are free from harassment and discrimination and provides support and avenues to report concerns and complaints of bias motivated behaviour. The EIO will work collaboratively with campus Security Services who liaise with Hamilton police when there are concerns and complaints related to possible hate crimes. The EIO also runs Antiracism workshops for allies and facilitates discussion and support groups for racialized community members.
For more information, please view the recording above and stay tuned for further updates to be posted on the Back to Mac website.