Brandon University has rolled out a comprehensive information website as students, faculty and staff gear up for the start of a mostly-online Fall Term.
The website, at BrandonU.ca/Coronavirus, collects information about all of the significant changes made to ensure safe and careful education can continue during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“Every department and area on campus has worked extremely hard since the spring to make sure students would be able to complete their courses — as safely as possible for those courses that need hand-on, in-person instruction, and as effectively as possible for those we can offer online and remotely,” said BU President David Docherty. “We’ve all heard many times how unusual, how uncharted, how unprecedented these times are. I am proud of how unified and how understanding our BU community has been.”
While detailed guidance has already been communicated as needed, and updated guidelines have been issued from each area, the new site collects all that information in a single place for easy reference. On a special page dedicated to student information, students can also start a live chat directly with BU employees in Student Services.
“Brandon University is built on the relationships that develop between students, faculty and staff, and our ability to get to know each other in genuine ways is a key feature of campus life,” said Katie Gross, BU’s Dean of Student Services. “We are going to keep that going, even online, by making sure that students have a direct opportunity to ask questions of a real person, to say hi, and to connect with us in real time.”
The website also contains broad guidelines for a future phased reopening, which would only be undertaken when circumstances permit. Brandon University is beginning the Fall Term in Phase Blue, the strictest operational guidelines. As previously announced, this means almost all educational activities will be delivered remotely, and the campus will remain closed to the general public.
Most staff will continue to work from home, although increased student supports for the Fall Term will bring more employees to campus, and all employees continue to have access to their workspaces and campus facilities as needed. Facilities are also being opened up for students who require them, for example computer labs and research support through the library. For students, facility bookings can be made online.
Depending on the progression of the pandemic, Brandon University will re-open in phases, moving from its current most-cautious Phase Blue to the more-open Phase Grey and Phase Gold. The phases are guidelines only, with broad latitude to adjust specifics as required. For example, more people will be working on campus during the Fall Term than during the summer, and some offices may be physically open, even though the university will remain in Phase Blue.
“This is a built-in-Brandon solution customized for Brandon University and draws extensively on the epidemiology experience of our Dean of Science, Dr. Bernadette Ardelli. I give my thanks to everyone across campus who participated in helping us draft it,” Docherty said. “Our plan focuses the guidance that we have received in our regular communications with Manitoba public health, complements the provincial RestartMB Pandemic Response System with its own colour coding, and provides everyone at BU with a clear, easy-to-understand roadmap for how BU will continue to provide quality education in a pandemic environment.”
The phased plan, which is available in more detail at BrandonU.ca/Coronavirus, does not include specific triggers for moving from phase to phase, but is instead infinitely flexible. University administrators, who are coordinating BU’s pandemic response through a series of working groups at the BU Senate and the BU President’s Administrative Council, will consider factors such as Covid-19 diagnosis rates and trends in the community, public health and provincial guidance, and protective measures in place on campus, when adjusting the university’s operations.
Major fall events, including Orientation and Homecoming, are being moved online or cancelled this year. Brandon University expects to make a decision about learning delivery in the 2021 Winter Term by the end of October.
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