Winter Course Delivery - Memo to Students - 11 November 2020
Although our circumstances are different this year, I am confident that university education and your experience at UTSC will be transformative for you. I will return to our unique times and UTSC’s response later in this message; but first, I want to focus on the transformative nature of the university experience.
Recently I connected with a social media group for my high school located in rural eastern Ontario. Thousands of participants have joined this group. We were asked to give advice to current high school students. This request evolved into a series of high school narratives, as well as stories of what happened after high school. Although my observations are impressionistic, I was struck by a number of responses that described how difficult it was to articulate a sense of distinct identity during high school. I suspect this is probably pervasive and not unique to my high school. Common were feelings of not belonging and trying to adapt behaviour in order to fit in. Some who felt this way found attending university or college transformative, appreciating the opportunity to develop a fuller and ultimately lasting sense of unique identity. This was not a huge number, as post-secondary education uptake is relatively low in rural Ontario. However, the specific accounts related were a powerful testament to the potential for transformation through the undergraduate experience, akin to what is waiting for you in the coming year. This was certainly true for me.
As a strong academic at the top of my class, in high school I felt I did not fit in, and I made efforts to hide my success. This changed dramatically when I went to university. Not that university was without its own set of challenges, and I know some of you are in the midst of facing such, but excelling was valued, striving to do better was fostered, and setting ambitious academic and personal goals was encouraged.
This year will be different for all of us, students, faculty and staff, but it does not mean it cannot be transformative. This transformation will happen in individual ways that are meaningful and progressive. We know that for some the additional uncertainties of this time, magnified in some cases by new modes of program delivery, may at times be quite stressful, and we encourage you to seek the many supports the university has for you.
The health and well-being of our campus community remains our top priority. This year we have made a remote access guarantee for the Fall term, and for all entry level courses for the whole year. We are mindful of those who are preparing to graduate next June and we guarantee a remote pathway to this milestone as well. This Fall we do have a limited number of in-person course elements that replicate on-line offerings. With an eye to public health considerations, we are hoping to expand our in-person offerings in the Winter term.
Together we will find new but meaningful ways to create the sense of community that is so central to the UTSC experience. I wish you a transformative year ahead.
September 9, 2020