Dean’s Message: COVID-19

Latest information for Engineering students, faculty & staff regarding coronavirus (COVID-19)

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April 3, 2020 | 3:00 pm

To our U of T Engineering community

I hope everyone is doing well, taking time for breaks and staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues. I know I’ve had a few hiccups in figuring out this new learning and working from home plan so I hope everyone has been coming up with some good strategies – do feel free to share.

As promised – I said I would keep you up to date with our plans for Convocation, since the University’s announcement that unfortunately we can’t host the big event in person in June.

Our graduating students received a message this afternoon from President Gertler, and I want to share some more details about how we’ll be celebrating:

  • The University will host a ceremony via webcast in early June — stay tuned for the exact date and time. The Chancellor, who is the Chair of Convocation, will confer all degrees in absentia, and diploma parchments will be couriered to graduates on a rolling basis following the virtual ceremony.
  • When the situation normalizes and it is possible to gather safely, Engineering will host its own in-person graduation ceremonies to celebrate this important milestone. These will not happen before September 1, 2020, and will take place over the course of 2020-21 as scheduling and space permits.
  • Our in-person graduation ceremonies will have many of the core elements of the traditional Convocation ceremony – from the academic procession of all the graduates, to congratulatory remarks, a convocation speaker, and individual presentation of the graduates.

Convocation is perhaps THE highlight of the year for all of our faculty and staff, and a once-in-a-lifetime moment for all our graduating students. I know that we all want to be there with you to celebrate. I can’t wait to join you all in person – so stay tuned and I will keep you posted as we start to finalize the details.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 


March 25, 2020 | 10:30 pm

To our U of T Engineering community

Hi everyone, today we all received the message from President Gertler about the cancellation of the in-person Convocation ceremonies for June 2020. I know that this is very disappointing news for all of us in Engineering, and particularly for our friends, family and extended community. I know how much this means to everyone, especially the class of 2T0 and 1T9+PEY, who were looking forward to walking across that stage, waving to friends and family — I was especially looking forward to the opportunity of shaking everyone’s hand and hearing what your plans are. It is a very special moment and one I remember from my ownConvocation experience. This is also such an important day for faculty and staff who are so proud of all your accomplishments.

It is really important to know that the University made this decision based on the input and perspective of key public health experts, many of whom are drawn from right here at U of T.

I want you to know that I too am disappointed in this news — believe me, I want to be on that stage with you as well!  We will find a way to celebrate your tremendous accomplishments and I’ll share those plans with you as soon as I can. I am proud of all that you have accomplished and look forward to celebrating this with you in person soon.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto


March 23, 2020 | 7:30 pm

To our U of T Engineering graduate students

As I mentioned in my email on Friday, I want to share the plan for adjusted final assessments and grading that are specific to graduate courses. We have heard the concerns from students about timing of final assessments, worries over unreliable internet access, and questions around ensuring that accommodation and accessibility needs can still be met.

As always, our Faculty’s primary aim is to support our students to complete this term by providing you with the best possible learning and assessment experience that we can. Due to the advanced nature of the materials covered, graduate courses typically have significant flexibility in terms of modes of assessment and usually have a greater emphasis on projects. Consequently, we are asking instructors to develop alternatives to final exams, now called final assessments, that let students best reflect their learning in each course, using guidelines that include:

  • In the development of these plans the Faculty expects that all course instructors will consult with students in their courses in appropriate ways.
    • Instructors will then put the proposed option to a student vote. With the approval by a simple majority of those who vote, the course can move forward with the proposed plan.
  • For consistency, the Faculty suggests that courses use one or a combination of the following approaches for the final assessment:
    • Take-home exams,
    • Assignments,
    • Report, essay, project, presentations
    • Quercus online quizzes
  • In designing their plans, instructors will consider solutions that support Academic Accommodations and Academic Integrity.

For this Winter 2020, the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) has extended the deadline for students enrolled in graduate courses to drop their course (full year and winter courses) without penalty until April 25, 2020. Unlike in undergraduate programs where it was already an option in place, the option to include on transcripts a letter grade as normal, or opt for a Credit or No Credit (CR/NCR) does not currently exist in graduate programs at U of T and at most universities in Canada. SGS is currently investigating this option to make this available in some graduate courses in a retroactive manner as it cannot be implemented immediately in our systems due to regulatory issues and processes related to changing academic programs.

I’ll keep you updated should we get additional details from SGS.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto


March 22, 2020 | 10:30pm

Sunday was sunny but cold, we’re only a couple of days into Spring 2020 — and here we are… in what is really a strange new world of “work from home,” “social distancing,” and trying to adjust to a new online reality.

Thought I would pen a few thoughts after a week of quick transitions, seemingly endless conference calls, oodles of Zoom, BB Collaborate, and Teams sessions, and pushing the limits of my home Internet and cell phone plans.

  1. Everyone in @UofTEngineering, from students to staff to faculty, has been truly amazing in their resilience, flexibility, and dedication to their peers, friends, colleagues, and the community. It has been remarkable to see how everyone stepped up to answer the #COVID-19 call: from ECF spinning up more remote access capacity to staff quickly helping everyone adapt to the new 100% on-line experience — from the admissions and Registrar’s Office to your own departmental advisors.
  2. I saw how @UofTEngineering faculty moved to ensure everyone will be able to complete this semester successfully — from pivoting lectures from “chalk & talks” to online (literally in 48 hrs), to coming up with ways to interact with students who moved back home and are now on the other side of the world.
  3. I saw students came together to develop ideas to combat #COVID-19 and inform the public health effort.
  4. I heard from so many of you about how important it was to keep you up to date on what was going @UofT and @UofTEngineering. We’re working on it and we’re doing our best in what really is an ever-changing situation.

I know that this is really a crazy and unprecedented time — we are all feeling anxious because this is such a new and unknown situation. But this is a challenge that we @Skule are so well-positioned for — we are all problem solvers, we are all used to dealing with unknowns, and we are all about optimizing designs and developing creative and innovative solutions … whether we’re in @civmin, @chemeng_uoft, @eceuoft, @uoftmse, @bme_uoft, @utias, @uoftmie, @uoftistep...  this is what we do as engineers.

So stay tuned, stay in touch, always happy to do a “Coffee with Chris” even if it’s a virtual one and take care of yourselves — there will still be some bumps ahead on this road but we’re going to get through this all together.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto


March 20, 2020 | 4:00pm

To our U of T Engineering undergraduate students

The Faculty’s primary aim is to support our students to complete this term by providing you with the best possible learning and assessment experience that we can at this point. To do this, we are asking instructors to develop alternatives to final exams, now called final assessments, that let students best reflect their learning in each course, using guidelines that include:

  • In the development of these plans the Faculty expects that all course instructors will consult with students in their courses in appropriate ways.
    • Instructors will then put the proposed option to a student vote. With the approval by a simple majority of those who vote, the course can move forward with the proposed plan.
  • For consistency, the Faculty suggests that courses use one or a combination of the following approaches for the final assessment:
    • Take-home exam,
    • Final report, essay, project, lab and/or
    • Quercus online quizzes
  • In designing their plans, instructors will consider solutions that support Academic Accommodations and Academic Integrity.

As I shared with you earlier this week, for this Winter 2020 semester only, students enrolled in undergraduate programs will have the option of choosing how their grade is recorded on their transcript, which could include a percent (%) grade as normal, or opt for a Credit or No Credit (CR/NCR) option after they see their final grades. Students would also have the choice to drop a course with no academic penalty at that time. We have also created an undergraduate student FAQ page to answer many of the questions that will come up, and we will continue to update it as we hear your feedback.

Graduate students: We are working with the School of Graduate Studies on options for final assessments in your courses and will be following up with you directly in the coming days with more info.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 


March 18, 2020 | 11:30am

To our U of T Engineering undergraduate students

With the adaptations and alterations to courses this semester, we are making some changes to give our students every possible opportunity to succeed and have agency over their own studies.

For this Winter 2020 semester only, students enrolled in undergraduate programs will have the option of choosing how their grade is recorded on their transcript, which could include a percent (%) grade as normal, or opt for a Credit or No Credit (CR/NCR) option after they see their final grades.

  • These choices can be made by individual students and indicated in ACORN — they will not be applied on a course-wide basis.
  • For this Winter 2020 semester, there will be no limit on the total number of courses to which students can choose to apply the CR/NCR option.
  • The CR/NCR option will be available for both core and non-core courses.
  • We will extend the drop deadline for all undergraduate courses to one week after the Exam Committee has approved the final grades and they are available to students. 

We came to this decision after extensive consultation with your Chairs and Directors, the Vice-Deans Undergraduate and First-Year, as well as the Exam Committee, which included representation from the Engineering Society.

To our graduate students: more specific information is coming soon for graduate courses. Currently the School of Graduate Studies has extended the deadline to drop graduate courses without penalty to 25 April 2020 — with the intent that this gives students the opportunity to fully consider any proposed amendments to course delivery before they make the decision to continue or drop.

Regarding final assessments for both undergraduate and graduate students, we’re working nonstop on putting together solutions that will give instructors the ability to deliver meaningful and productive evaluations or assignments, and that give students the best chance to succeed. We’ll be coming back to both faculty and students with more details on that shortly.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 


March 18, 2020 | 8:00am

To our U of T Engineering students, staff and faculty

Following U of T’s guidance directing employees to work from home and research to wind down by the end of this week, student T-card and fob access to U of T Engineering buildings will be disabled as of 5:00 pm on Friday, 20 March 2020.

This means the spaces will be inaccessible to all students, including research-stream graduate students. Faculty and staff will retain access for emergency situations only, such as critical maintenance of research equipment that cannot be planned for in advance. Post-doctoral fellows are considered staff. Facilities & Services will continue to patrol and maintain security.

 We will keep our community updated as the situation evolves: uofteng.ca/covid19.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 


March 17, 2020 | 4:00pm

To our U of T Engineering community

In the spirit of taking care of ourselves and each other I wanted to share the following guidelines. Again, I know there is a lot of information going around right now — our Faculty’s updates are all collected here: uofteng.ca/covid19

Currently, Toronto Public Health and our Occupational Health & Safety Team indicate that there is an overall low risk level for COVID-19 infection; however, we will all remain vigilant. To that end:

  • All employees and students should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms listed in the University’s COVID-19 FAQs
    • If experiencing symptoms, please have employees and students follow the directives detailed on the Toronto Public Health website including self-isolating, taking the available Self-Assessment and following the recommendations for seeking additional care from their primary care provider, Telehealth or nearest hospital based of their symptoms
    • If an employee or student is contacted by a Public Health authority with regards to COVID-19, please have them contact the University’s Occupational Health Nurse at: ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca 
  • If advised by Public Health that they are to self-isolate, any employee or student must confirm with Public Health that they are clear to resume normal activities prior to returning to work or study.

Students

  • If any student is sick or self-isolating, they should advise their supervisor, undergraduate coordinator, or graduate coordinator as applicable of their status.

Staff & faculty

I know we’re all doing our best to take care of our communities, both on campus and off.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 


March 17, 2020 | 2:30pm

To our U of T Engineering community

Reaching out to update you with the latest and share what this means for us here in U of T Engineering. Based on the current information from public health officials and our governments, U of T continues to adjust to safeguard the health of our students, staff and faculty. The latest changes outlined by the Provost include:

  • All University buildings will be closed as of 11:59 pm, March 17, 2020 to the general public. Members of the University community will need key or fob access to enter them.
  • Libraries at the University of Toronto will be closed as of 11:59 pm, March 17, 2020. Robarts will be open to members of the U of T community with limited staff.
  • U of T will continue to provide residences for those students who cannot return home at this point.
  • Any employee who can work from home should do so.
  • All lab-based research operations must be shut down no later than 5 pm, Friday March 20, 2020.
    • I’m asking researchers to be flexible and creative in how you support your research-stream graduate students and what can be moved online.
    • Sharing this COVID-19 Lab Preparedness Checklist you may find useful.
    • If you have specific questions about adapting your research or incorporating social distancing in your labs, please start by contacting your respective Associate Chairs – Research, and they will confer with Ramin Farnood as Vice-Dean, Research, as needed.
    • We’ve also established a Research Continuity page on the Faculty & Staff Hub and will keep this updated with the latest.

I know many of you are wondering about final assessments and options for exams — I have heard may of your ideas and concerns. We will also be sharing info on plans for assessments later this week — we are working on solutions that best serve our students and allow our professors and instructors to deliver their courses in a meaningful way.

I realise that this is a very complex, challenging and uncertain moment for all of us and I thank everyone for everything that they are doing and will continue to do. We will make this work.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto


March 15, 2020 | 2:00pm

To our U of T Engineering community

We’re continuing to make adjustments to our plans to find creative ways to keep the semester going as best we can. We’re also listening to your concerns and feedback, and we know that many of our students are faced with difficult decisions about whether and when to return home given the increasing challenges with international travel.

We have decided that all U of T Engineering undergraduate and course-based Master’s of Engineering (MEng) students will not be required to return to the St. George campus in person for the Winter 2020 session. This includes UTIAS.

Course work will continue with online alternatives. Students, please keep checking Quercus for info from each of your course instructors on how these adjustments will affect your courses, labs and exams. Students registered with Accessibility Services should continue to contact Accessibility Services to receive accommodations and supports.

I’ll be following up directly with faculty members with more details on completion of term work and final exams as I get that info.

My thanks to our entire community for your strength and flexibility during this unpredictable time.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto


March 13, 2020 | 3:30pm

To all Engineering students, staff and faculty

I know the last few weeks, and especially the past few days, have been really hectic, unpredictable, and frankly confusing.

The COVID-19 situation is moving really quickly and I know that this has affected each and every one of us, both academically and personally.  

I want to be really open and clear in sharing what is going on, because it is such a quickly evolving situation.

Since my note this earlier morning, I’d like to answer questions that many of you have raised — and in particular to thank you for being frank in your comments.

  • Physical lab spaces — including computing (ECF) labs and undergraduate teaching labs and makerspaces (Myhal Light Fabrication Facility) where people gather — will be closed. Research laboratories overseen by faculty members will remain open.
  • At this time, students are encouraged to stay home or in residence and access course content online. We may all still be back on campus for exams after April 9 — I’ll let everyone know what is happening around final exams as I find out more from the University.
  • I’m asking managers and chairs to be flexible in accommodating staff requests to work from home where it’s feasible for them to do so. For faculty and staff — info on how to set yourself up to work remotely are here: https://uofteng.ca/workingfromhome

I will also be sending out a separate email directly to faculty, instructors and TAs outlining some ideas and options for alternative ways to deliver your course content.

Students, please keep checking Quercus for updates on your courses.

Everyone at the University is trying to make decisions that protect our health and wellness, and that uphold continuity as best we can. This is really a complex and unprecedented situation — and we know that we’re not going to get every single thing right.

We are trying to be flexible and make good calls — adaptability is key.

I’ll provide updates as soon as I get them and keep everyone in the loop.

I thank everyone for all your efforts in helping us manage through this very weird situation.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto

 


 

March 13, 2020 | 12:00pm

Dear Engineering students, staff and faculty

You will all have received the below message from President Gertler outlining changes to our classes and operations. I want to make it clear how these changes affect us here in Engineering.

  • We will be cancelling all in-person meetings of undergraduate and graduate classes, effective Monday, 16 March 2020 through the end of the semester, which is 9 April 2020 for Engineering. Classes scheduled for today, 13 March 2020, will meet in person.
  • Students, please check Quercus for messages from your instructors on the nature of any changes to your courses.
  • Exams will happen — we will update you as soon as we are able on any changes to delivery or format.
  • Our campus remains open, and staff and faculty should continue to come to work on site at this time where they are able.
  • As always, any students, staff and faculty with cold and flu symptoms should stay home and report their absence through the tools available — the Absence Declaration tool in ACORN for students, or Employee Self Service for staff and faculty.

This is a very complex situation and things change rapidly — I know that this is a confusing time so I will keep everyone up to date on events, news, and announcements from my office via our various channels.

Chris

Christopher Yip
Dean
Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
University of Toronto


Message from Meric S. Gertler,  President, University of Toronto

 

To all members of the U of T community:

As you know, since late last year, governments and institutions around the world have been responding in various ways to the threats posed by COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The situation is now accelerating very rapidly. Two days ago, the World Health Organization determined that COVID-19 has reached the level of a global pandemic. Yesterday, among many other developments in Canada, the governments of Quebec and Alberta advised that indoor gatherings of more than 250 people should be cancelled, and the Ontario government announced that all public schools will remain closed for two weeks following the March break.

Continually since early January, the University of Toronto has been monitoring the situation very closely and taking action as necessary in light of the global situation, the advice of public health authorities and the concerns of our community. We have also been liaising regularly with other post-secondary institutions and sector organizations, as well as Toronto Public Health, while consulting with our own U of T experts in public health. We have been informing members of our community accordingly, through a website we created as a clearinghouse of authoritative information.

Yesterday we sent a memo directly to all students, faculty, librarians and staff on our three campuses, to update everyone on our planning for future contingencies. We announced the cancellation of all University-sponsored learning programs abroad. We advised that non-essential travel should be reconsidered and we recommended the cancellation or postponement of all discretionary events. We indicated the steps we have taken to support instructorsin planning for the possible cancellation of in-person classes and examinations. We reiterated our advice that those who are sick should stay home, and we reminded community members of where they can find more information online.

After careful consideration of developments over the past 24 hours, we have made the following additional decisions.

  • We have decided to cancel all in-person undergraduate and research-stream Masters and Doctoral courses across U of T’s three campuses, and we will provide that teaching by other means (which may include existing online platforms).
  • This decision is effective this coming Monday, March 16 and continuing until the end of classes on Friday, April 3. (Please note that all in-person teaching scheduled for today, Friday, March 13, will continue as planned.)
  • With respect to professional programs, each of which has particular circumstances and accreditation requirements, consultation is ongoing today to determine the appropriate course of action.
  • Professional students as well as faculty members, other instructors and staff in these programs will be advised by this coming Monday morning, as soon as decisions have been made.
  • University operations continue, and all three campuses will remain open.
  • Libraries, residences, food services, health & wellness centres, athletics and recreation facilities and other public spaces on all three campuses will remain open.

One of the key factors in these decisions is the need to foster a degree of “social distancing”, as recommended by public health authorities. On that front, our goal is to help interrupt the chain of transmission in the wider community, thereby protecting vulnerable individuals and ensuring that our health care system will not become overburdened.

I would like to extend special thanks to those faculty and staff members who have been involved in monitoring and analyzing this evolving situation and in charting the way forward for the University at this difficult time. Your dedication is remarkable and deeply appreciated.

I salute our U of T clinicians and researchers who are making crucial contributions to the collective efforts to find solutions on the local, provincial, national and international levels. You make us proud.

I would also like to thank all members of the University of Toronto community – our students, faculty and staff members alike. We appreciate that the global COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly worrisome, and that the changes I have just announced will require very significant adjustments on everyone’s part. But, based on the strength of our bonds as a community and the good will that characterizes its members, we are confident that we will meet this challenge successfully.

Sincerely,

Meric S. Gertler

President, University of Toronto