President's Message | July 15, 2020 | View as Webpage
Looking Forward
President's Message on Fall 2020
Dear members of the Acadia University community,

The past several months have challenged and changed us in ways we could never have imagined. We had to transition quickly to remote operations, move classes online, suspend lab research, and limit our presence on campus. At the same time, many of you have been engaged in vital discussions about racial injustice, diversity, and inclusion as society continues to grapple with the scourge of racism and discrimination. You are continuing to take concrete steps to advance diversity, inclusion, and equity at Acadia. Shortly, I will be making an important announcement about addressing racism at Acadia.

Although the pandemic has slowed some of our activities, I am inspired by our creativity, resilience, determination, compassion, and commitment to justice and leadership in higher education. In your own way, each of you has demonstrated these characteristics, especially as we have tackled the difficult decisions in deciding how to provide the best possible learning experience for our students while at the same time prioritizing their health and safety, and that of our entire community. 

I believe it has been among our proudest moments as a university, and we will look back on these days as ones where we showed Acadia’s true spirit. Despite the grim fact that our pre-pandemic balanced budget has become a substantial deficit, we continue to work together to address the challenges. The reality of the financial impact of the pandemic has forced us to take some measures we wish we did not have to, and it will continue to challenge us in the months ahead. 

We must ensure that our beloved University sustains itself through this crisis and that we come through it with as little damage as possible. Indeed, we hope that we will emerge stronger than ever and ready to continue the strategic opportunities that we were pursuing before the COVID-19 virus distracted us. 

Road Forward
Today, I want to thank our faculty and staff for your tireless efforts to develop and adapt to plans that are appropriate for our courses of instruction, students, and facilities. And I want to thank our entire community for your patience as we determine the best path for Acadia University.

Now it is time for us to look forward as we commence our phased return to campus, and as we gear up for the return of students for the fall term. Some aspects of university life, like essential on-campus research and services, will soon return to more normal activity, and that is an excellent first step of the many ahead.

We have also eased restrictions on public access to the campus during Phase 1 of the University re-opening plan. The signs restricting access to the campus grounds have been removed. Members of the general public are now permitted to walk across campus while wearing face masks, but not to linger or hold any activities on the university grounds, such as picnics or games.

I was recently part of several Fall 2020 Student Information Sessions hosted by Student Enrolment, along with our Provost and Deans. It was a wonderful reminder of how much our students are counting on us – their excitement is invigorating. But they, like all of us, have reasonable concerns that we are working to address. Everyone wants to be safe and healthy, and that means that we all have to accept new norms of behaviour and conduct in our everyday lives.

Our plans have been developed with the guidance of University and Public Health experts and informed by the work of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents (CONSUP) and the Maple League of Universities. As always, the health and safety of our community is our top priority.

While we know that we will never be able to eliminate all risk of COVID-19, our goal is to reduce it as much as possible by introducing multiple layers of protection and asking each member of our community to remember their obligation to help protect the health of all members of our community as well as themselves.

Just as the gradual re-opening of our economy and society brings increased risks that need to be mitigated against, so too does re-opening campus and students returning to Wolfville and the surrounding area.

We have been working closely with the Town of Wolfville and other municipalities in the region as we develop our return to campus plans, and I recently made a presentation to the Wolfville Town Council that was very well received. However, we recognize that residents of Wolfville, in particular, have genuine concerns as students return to the community. We are working hard to address those concerns and ensure that our students are aware of their responsibilities to create a safe and healthy environment both on- and off-campus.

Returning to campus safely
Building on the experience we have gained as we ramp up our on-campus research activities, we are continuing to implement Phase 1 of our return. Employees are encouraged to review and follow our return to campus guidelines.

We are implementing social distancing guidelines and signage, non-medical mask-wearing requirements, strict hygiene practices, health screening, and contact-tracing protocols. We are also exploring COVID-19 testing for our campus and the Wolfville community. We are reducing the density of workspaces, classrooms, and residence halls and following strict guidelines for students who need to be in quarantine or isolation.

Our residential spaces will change to have enhanced hygiene and single-room occupancy, as well as “family bubbles.” Co-curricular activities will be modified, and our dining facilities will offer alternate meal delivery and reduced density to ensure safety.

Off-campus activity is included in our approach as well. It will be communicated that irresponsible and risky behaviour will be subject to discipline and will have consequences, both within the bounds of University authority and those under the provincial health order.

A new course delivery model
Our Fall 2020 academic term offers five flexible course-delivery models for students studying on-campus and off. How a course is facilitated depends on the professor’s capacity, the size of the class, content topics, and the level of classroom participation required.

Details about the model of course delivery used in each course have been made available recently. Students and course advisors will work together to ensure we can meet each student’s academic needs as reasonably as possible. We are also preparing to be able to pivot to a full-online/virtual delivery of courses if that should become necessary.

A difficult but necessary journey
I know that none of this will be easy. The success of this effort will require the cooperation of all members of our community. Each of us will need to change our typical behaviour and rethink how we conduct our studies, our work, and our social lives. Though it will be difficult at times, it is necessary, and I have no doubt it will be worth it and that we are up to the challenge. Ultimately, I believe these plans can and will succeed because we are a community that cares greatly for each other and this institution.

Though some things will be different, our goal is to preserve as much of our campus experience as possible and support and strengthen the activities that make Acadia unique. I am grateful for the contributions of student leaders who have been working with us on plans for campus life in this new environment. I look forward to their continued partnership moving forward.

Together, we can make this an extraordinary year.

What follows is a high-level summary of our plans. Because of the range of faculties and departments that comprise Acadia and their varied programs and needs, more detailed information will follow soon.

I know that after reading this and the follow-up messages from your department or school, you will likely have many questions. We ask that you first check our Student Life and COVID-19 websites, where we will post new information as it becomes available. In some cases, we won’t yet have answers, but we will seek to get answers back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you for your patience as we finesse our plans in what will be one of the most complex undertakings in the history of Acadia University.

I am excited to see you—whether in-person or online—soon.

Dr. Peter Ricketts
President and Vice-Chancellor
Highlights of Acadia's Return to Campus Plan
Phased Re-opening
Acadia has identified five phases for our re-opening, which are detailed in our Return to Campus Safely Plan. However, the phases are less about specific timelines and more about success within each phase.

PHASE 1: Restricted Access for Essential Work commenced on July 6, 2020, to allow people to return to campus who need access for essential work. Authorization is required and can be achieved by an employee working in cooperation with their immediate supervisor and the Occupational Health and Safety Officer. No more than 25-30% of employees can be on campus during Phase 1.

Under Phase 1, members of the general public are now permitted to walk across the campus grounds while wearing non-medical face masks, but not to linger or hold any activities on the university grounds, such as picnics or games. The Woodland Trails remain open as they have been since the province lifted restrictions on parks and trails, and the Town Park is also open; however, the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, the tennis courts, the e-charging station and all other public facilities remain closed until further notice. Information on the phased re-opening of the Athletics Complex and other facilities that are used by the public will be issued separately.
Restrictions on public access to campus may be reinstated for the general public as students return to campus.

Face Coverings and Masks
Wearing face masks is expected when social distancing is not possible (whether inside buildings or outside) unless an individual is unable due to medical reasons. Students will be expected to wear masks throughout residence halls except in their bedrooms. Two non-medical masks (NMM) per person will be issued to faculty and staff members. Students will also be provided with masks when they return to campus and they are encouraged to bring masks with them.

Social Distancing and Gathering Limits
Whenever possible, all people on campus will be expected to observe two-metre (six-foot) social distancing guidelines, whether inside or outside. COVID-19 signage will reinforce the necessity of maintaining the two-metre (six-foot) social distancing guideline, hygiene, and provide directions for movement on campus. The size of gatherings will be restricted in accordance with the Public Health guidelines that are approved for the campus.

Self-Reported Diagnosis
Each day, all students, faculty, and staff will be expected to complete a COVID-19 self-diagnosis symptom check questionnaire before coming to campus or leaving residence halls. The tests are a way to inform individuals about whether they should remain at home or in their residence room rather than coming to campus.

Health Screening
We plan to implement a comprehensive COVID-19 safety program, informed by provincial health authorities and a University occupational health and safety nurse dedicated to assisting our community. This work is currently under discussion. Our intention is that will include: (1) initial quarantine of all students from outside the government-approved bubble (currently Atlantic Canada) upon their return to campus to begin the fall semester, (2) daily symptom self-checks by students, faculty, and staff, and (3) diagnostic testing of those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Diagnostic testing is also an option as students arrive on campus in the fall, and as needed.

Contact Tracing
In case of potential exposure to COVID-19 on campus, Public Health will work with Acadia’s occupational health and safety nurse coordinator to reach out to individuals who were potentially exposed. Those who have been exposed will receive regular follow-up to check their health status and ensure that they have access to testing and any needed medical care.

Managing Suspected and Positive Cases
Even though we will be adopting multiple layers of protection to reduce risk, we are also planning for the possibility that some cases of COVID-19 could emerge. We are working with the health authorities to provide appropriate testing capabilities so that students can be tested as required quickly, especially those with any symptoms associated with COVID-19.

In the eventuality of a student or employee testing positive, contact tracing will be conducted. Residence students exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 will be quarantined and supported by Acadia employees until a negative test result is achieved. Students living off-campus will also be required to isolate following the Public Health order. Faculty and staff exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 will work or convalesce at home until a negative test result is achieved. 

Personal Hygiene
Wall-mounted or free-standing hand sanitation dispensers are available in all campus buildings. Paper towels and soap dispensers are available in all common-area and residential bathrooms. Inside residence halls, washroom assignments will be to a limited number of students (“family bubble”) and additional cleaning processes will be implemented.

Based on the recommendations of the disease control authorities and in consultation with Acadia’s Pandemic Response Committee, we are following guidelines to review and confirm compliance of our HVAC systems across all buildings. Our residence buildings will have increased fresh air and no-recirculated air to improve air quality. Our academic buildings will see an increase in the fresh air intake.

Cleaning Procedures
We will be increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting throughout our campuses. All common-area restrooms—including in residence halls—will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily. All other common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily with roving crews disinfecting high-touch points throughout the day.

The University will supply cleaning kit materials to help students, faculty, and staff fulfill their responsibilities of keeping themselves and others protected throughout the spaces that they occupy. The idea is to facilitate the cleaning of personal spaces, desks, lecterns, classroom workspaces, shared copiers, etc.

Residential Strategy
Upon arrival, our students will have training about recognizing symptoms of COVID-19. They will be asked to review and agree to follow health guidelines to do their part to protect their health and the health of our community members.

Our residential spaces will have enhanced hygiene and single-room occupancy, as well as “family bubbles.” Co-curricular activities will change, and our dining facilities will offer modified meal delivery, and reduced density to ensure safety.
Our dining hall will have a reduced density and will eliminate self-serve and buffet-style options. Utensils will be individually wrapped, as will grab-and-go items. We anticipate food service locations will be open, with most locations providing a quick pick-up service. We will adhere to all Nova Scotia and local health guidelines and enhance our food safety and sanitation processes.

Academic Calendar and Key Dates
The academic calendar for Acadia has changed with classes beginning on September 21 and exams ending on December 20. The last day in residence is December 21. We will be prepared to implement changes should the need arise as determined by University and government and health officials. The move-in period will be extended to allow for testing and to reduce the number of students moving in each day. More information about the move-in process will be posted on the Student Life and COVID-19 websites.

Learning Spaces
In all classrooms, two-metre (six-foot) social distancing guidelines will be followed, and masks are required in public areas such as building entrances and hallways, and on outdoor campus paths and spaces where social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Due to these guidelines, the occupancy of our classrooms and lecture halls will be reduced. Large classes will be conducted remotely, while some will be split into smaller sections or taught in alternative locations. Because some students will not be able, or will choose not to return to campus, whenever possible classes will be conducted in a hybrid or virtual learning format to allow students to participate remotely. Shared lab and practice spaces will be open to students by appointment, to allow for reduced capacities while providing the freedom required to do your work.

Civic and Community Engagement
Students from across the University participate in volunteer community activities and service-learning, working closely with local organizations. Protocols will be developed that allow these activities to continue and conform to University guidelines to ensure safety.

Athletics, Fitness, and Recreation
We are working closely with our Atlantic University Sport partners, Public Health officials and U SPORTS to determine how and when it will be safe for varsity sport student-athletes, coaches, and staff to return to practice and competition. In-person competitive varsity, club sports, and intramurals have been suspended for the Fall Term.

The Athletics Complex is expected to open subject to new safety protocols in September, and most outdoor athletic facilities will be available for use. Also, our Athletics staff is working on expanding training and non-contact, low-risk recreation activities in the fall. Some summer programming is currently being planned, including operation of the privately-run Acadia Sports Therapy Clinic and Acadia Performance Training (outdoors), as well as possible summer camps. Dates and processes will be shared with facility pass holders via email and updated online.

Our Library is expected to open for study at reduced capacity following social distancing guidelines. Plans are in place for remote service and contactless borrowing and return of library materials.

Art Gallery
The Acadia University Art Gallery is planning limited-access academic programming and new exhibitions for the fall as well as robust virtual programming and artists talks.

Third-Party Events Postponed
At this time and through Fall 2020, the University will not be permitting third party events on campus.
Learn More
More information about school-specific and department plans will be communicated directly to students, faculty, and staff, and will be updated on the Student Life and COVID-19 websites.

Students with questions related to Student Life, Academics, and Supports are asked to email for assistance.

F aculty and Staff should contact their direct supervisor for specific assistance.