From Joy Johnson | Message from the President: Return to campus planning frameworks

April 08, 2021

This message is sent on behalf of Joy Johnson, president and vice-chancellor. It has been sent to all faculty and staff.

Dear faculty and staff of SFU,

As we see an increase in COVID-19 case numbers and more presence of variants of concern, it is as important as ever that we adhere to safety plans. Please continue to be vigilant and stay safe. When your turn comes to get vaccinated, do so if you can. Vaccination is a critical part of protecting others, including our campus communities.

Over the past year we have become familiar with managing in uncertainty. Though challenging, we are prepared and equipped to do so. In order to meet students’ registration needs we must plan several months in advance. We know that much will change within that time. Our leadership groups are monitoring closely, anticipating changes, and planning for different outcomes. 

As Provost Catherine Dauvergne announced, we are planning for a full return to campus in September. This is exciting news. Yet I recognize that, along with the anticipation, there is anxiety. I also want to acknowledge that members of our SFU community have had a broad range of experiences of the pandemic and that there will be different experiences of the return to campus. We are making careful plans to return to campus, and today I want to share our planning frameworks in order to provide understanding of our approach. 

Managing the work of recovery

As we have throughout the pandemic, we will prioritize the teaching, learning and research mandate of SFU. Our work now is to get our in-person classes and research back to full capacity as quickly as we can while we ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff. 

We have established principles for academic planning to guide our work. We have also documented a decision-making framework that clarifies which decisions are made by which leadership groups. The intent of this structure is to ensure decision-making is informed by input from across the university for broad decisions and decentralized to specific groups, such as faculties, for maximum flexibility and agility. 

We are planning for the full return to campus through a phased approach, and will share more details in the coming weeks. Supporting this work, the government will be providing updated COVID-19 Go-Forward guidelines for BC’s post-secondary sector later this spring. We are working closely with Provincial Health, WorkSafe BC and other post-secondary institutions to support the safe and complete resumption of on-campus activities. 

What does this mean for faculty and staff?

By Fall, all faculty and staff will be on campus in some capacity. For some roles, the return to campus will begin over the summer. You should begin to put plans in place now for that eventuality.

In order to be ready for September, I encourage you to take your holidays and recharge over the summer months. This Fall will be another significant change for us as a community. We need to be rested and ready to welcome and support students. 

Prioritizing the student experience

SFU will be welcoming two groups of new students to our campuses this Fall – one group that is beginning their university experience and another that is beginning their second year but has not yet been on campus. They are anticipating a more typical university experience, and plans are underway to support their safety and learning as well as their connection with their new community.  

The timing of the return to campus may be more challenging for international students. We are working with these students directly to stay connected and offer supports. We continue to work with the government on visa guidelines and vaccination processes. Deans are considering how to best meet the needs to students who won’t be able to return to our campuses in September. 

The future of work

I am hearing from faculty and staff who are eager to talk about the future of work at SFU. I understand and appreciate your interest in maximizing what we have learned through the pandemic. The faculty and staff town hall event next week is a space for you to share your thoughts and ask questions. We want to hear from you.

As we look ahead to Fall 2021, it is critical that we return to campus to support students and reconnect as a community. The Executive Team supports examining options for future work flexibility where feasible. A working group has been established to study the idea and we will move forward carefully, taking employee engagement, service standards and operational needs as well as workplace safety, legal compliance and effective management into consideration. There will be some people the university has a legal duty to accommodate. Those individuals will be accommodated as always. 

We need your support

The return to campus will be challenging. SFU is a highly complex operation. To return to campus safely and fully will take each of us, committed to a shared outcome. Thank you for your efforts and your care for our community. I look forward to seeing you in the months to come. 

Warm regards,

Joy Johnson
President and Vice-Chancellor
Simon Fraser University