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Guest column by Mohamed Lachemi
‘The weeks and months ahead will no doubt provide us with more challenges, but we will meet them head on:’ Ryerson President and Vice-Chancellor Mohamed Lachemi
Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed impressive demonstrations of innovation, collaboration and nimbleness as our community has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students, faculty and staff have responded to unprecedented challenges with creativity, resilience and understanding. Seeing our community come together in the face of such challenges reminds me daily of what an honour it is to lead this institution.
Guided by our values
At Ryerson, we are always guided by our values: creating a culture of well-being; ensuring a safe, secure, healthy and inclusive community; being deliberately inclusive; and putting people first. These values have long defined who we are and continue to help us respond to the impact of COVID-19 on our community. At the same time, we have remained committed to what we do best — focussing on the future, innovating in the face of change, and embracing disruption.
To guide us through these challenging times, we have remained focused on three goals:
- Protecting our students, faculty and staff by limiting the potential spread of the virus;
- Ensuring our students can successfully complete their academic year and that essential scholarly, research and creative activity continues; and
- Working with our partners and government to come up with innovative solutions to help address the challenges resulting from the pandemic.
In working towards these goals, the provost and his team of deans and vice-provosts are working tirelessly to ensure students have the resources and support available to successfully finish their term, and our administration and operations team is doing an excellent job of maintaining essential operations on our campus. Ryerson International has been instrumental in supporting the well-being of our students and faculty who are on placements around the world, helping many to return home safely. The Office of Research and Innovation has put important measures and supports in place to ensure that critical research can continue, while maintaining the personal safety of our researchers.
The university’s Emergency Response Team and our Public Health Threats Committee have been monitoring the situation since the beginning and are in regular contact with public health agencies. They have been a very helpful source of sound advice, with the communications team working very hard to ensure everyone is kept informed and up to date.
Throughout this time, I have been fortunate to work with many wonderful external partners and stakeholders across the province and the country. The Council of Ontario Universities and Universities Canada have been instrumental in helping universities assess how best to move forward, supporting both the goals of our individual institutions and the post-secondary education sector as a whole. By working together with our partners, we can discuss the challenges we are facing, share solutions to common problems, and identify best practices.
With the help of our University Relations team, we have been actively participating in discussions with Mayor John Tory, and members of the provincial and federal governments. We have made it clear to all levels of government that we can help leverage our programs and innovation ecosystem to help Canadians and businesses recover.
Supporting our students
I know that these are difficult times for all of us — the university is here to support you. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that counselling and health services are available to all community members — students, faculty and staff, should they be needed. Students can access support at the Ryerson Centre for Student Development and Counselling.
The days ahead
This is a rapidly changing and evolving environment. None of us have all the answers and what lies ahead of us is difficult to predict, including the next academic year. But that does not mean that the university is not actively planning for the future.
We are continuing to plan based on all potential scenarios. In doing so, we are both monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on our city, province and the post-secondary sector and heeding the advice of our ministry, provincial and federal governments and public health agencies.
The weeks and months ahead will no doubt provide us with more challenges, but we will meet them head on — and come through them — by working together, looking out for each other and responding to change with understanding and resolve.