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President Loreman’s report to GFC, August 25, 2020.

Posted on: Aug 25, 2020

Return for the fall semester:

It is good to be back. Our reopening plans for fall 2020 have not changed substantially since the decision was made in May to offer a predominantly online experience combined with some face-to-face classes in a very limited number of courses. We continue to follow all AHS guidelines and regulations to ensure safety across campus. Following guidelines issued by the President’s Office, all administrative units have prepared safe re-opening plans for their areas that took effect on August 17.

Access to campus in the fall is limited to employees, students, pre-approved guests, and Board members via two entrances and exit in the Hole academic centre and the Ralph King Building at which sign-in and sign-out is required. Our Student Residence remains closed and food services are limited. Masks must be worn in public areas. Our administrative and student service offices remain open, although some are running modified hours. Students can expect both face-to-face services and online access to services depending on their preference. Our Library also remains open both physically and online, and will host supervised and safe study space for students who do not have satisfactory facilities to study from home. There is no ACAC competition for our student athletes, although they will continue to train under the guidance of our coaches. We are allowing staff to work at home as is possible, requiring that those doing so submit a weekly work plan to the President’s Office via their supervisor.

I am most concerned about our new students who are yet to have a true Concordia experience, and who may feel isolated and disconnected from our university. In response we have scheduled a number of face-to-face social, cultural, and academic events for them throughout the fall. These events will fully comply with AHS and CUE guidelines. We have also placed all first-year students into support groups of 20-30. These groups will meet virtually each week, often twice a week, and will be facilitated by our senior students.

Decisions about winter semester are yet to be made, but will be communicated by mid-October.

Inclusion and diversity at CUE:

This past Friday Concordia’s Board of Governors approved a Statement on Inclusion and Diversity for CUE that is designed to provide focus and direction with respect to our actions in this area. All too often post-secondary institutions post statements in reaction to specific unfortunate and/or controversial events that occur from time to time in Canada and elsewhere. For many reasons, I do not support this approach, and so am pleased that our Board has issued a single guiding statement that clearly communicates the sort of welcoming, inclusive, and diverse community we strive to be at CUE. This sort of broad statement of principle is enabling, acting as a philosophical foundation that will help to further our various practical initiatives aimed at producing genuine, measurable, and observable change in this area.

McKinsey review of post-secondary education:

Private consulting firm McKinsey has been awarded a $3.7m contract to conduct a review of the post-secondary education system, including individual institutions, in Alberta. This review is expected to be completed by year-end, making for a very tight timeline.

CUE must be an active participant in this review, demonstrating our value to and leadership within the system. Our preparation includes collaboration with the other four Alberta Independent Academic Institutions to develop a brief for McKinsey. This brief highlights the importance of our sector to the Alberta system in providing choice for learners at a significantly lower cost to government compared with public institutions. An additional brief that is specific to CUE has also been developed, highlighting our unique role in our sector and the system overall. These two briefs will be provided to McKinsey as they gather data, along with the Ministry of Advanced Education.

CUE Committees:

The Government of Alberta is asking all post-secondary institutions to find savings and efficiencies in administration in order to devote a greater share of resources to areas that clearly and directly focus on students. In order to do this, many institutions, CUE included, have been looking at their back-office operations to ensure that they are lean and effective. However, back-office operations may not be the largest source of administrative ‘waste’ in an institution, and indeed I suspect that at CUE they are not.

One area that receives scant attention is the amount of time, energy, and expense involved in operating our various committees. There may be a perception that committee meetings do not cost anything, but this is not the case. They are expensive to run, and at times these resources might be better off being devoted more directly towards students.

It is likely the case that CUE has experienced a slow and steady growth in the number of formal and informal committees that meet on a regular basis. For this reason, Concordia’s administration is examining the number of committees that operate at CUE, the regularity with which they meet, and the membership of those committees. This is being done with a view to ensuring that we only operate committees that are absolutely necessary, and that these committees are of the right scale, and meet only as frequently as is required for good decision making and communication.

International update:

While international exchanges and visits have been cancelled for the fall, we continue to be active on the international front. Most importantly, our International Office continues with virtual student appointments that deal with student life, academics, and immigration matters for our international students who are already in the country. In addition, the International Office is offering virtual pre-arrival sessions to new students covering immigration, travel restrictions, online learning, etc., and is sending consistent communication to continuing students on re-entering Canada, learning online, healthcare, and other matters.

Some opportunities for virtual international experiences are in the works. The International Office is working with Career Services to discuss collaboration on the promotion of virtual internships abroad (Washington Centre, FLACSO, etc.) and we are also working with the Ostwestfalen-Lippe (OWL, Germany) Consortium to expand partnerships to include collaborative online international learning. Concordia is reaching out internationally this year via the Centre for Applied Artificial Intelligence (CAAI) to partners in Europe to discuss ways to collaborate on AI projects.

Recently, we have added the Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow, Russia, and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to our list of partner universities.