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[COVID-19] Provincial Announcement on Essential Services – Impact on University Operations

We want to acknowledge the amazing work and dedication of our staff, faculty and librarians, particularly those whose jobs require them to be on site to support our students and our academic and research mission. The University is supporting the efforts of our country and our province as we implement measures aimed at containing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that these are trying times and we encourage you to make use of the supports that are available to our community and reach out to those who may be in need.

Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford announced the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces, except for a list of essential services, effective midnight tonight. We would like to take this opportunity to tell you what this means for the University of Toronto.

In our memo of March 17, 2020, we outlined our pledge to deliver three fundamental elements of the University’s core mission:

  • ensuring that our students can complete their term,
  • providing a place to live for those students in residence who are unable to return home, and
  • supporting the critical COVID-19 and time-sensitive research endeavors of our world-class scholars.

The province indicated that businesses that are able to continue working remotely or online should do so. Therefore, the University will continue our work in terms of teaching, research and other business remotely.

Our residences remain open. All libraries will close as of 6 PM, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. We know a small number of students continued to use our libraries in recent days in order to access their courses and efforts are underway on all three campuses to support individual requests. Students should use the Contact Us button located at the top of the FAQ section on the University web site, indicating their campus, in order to receive additional information.

Research related to COVID-19 and time-sensitive critical research projects that have been granted exemptions will also continue. Work in areas explicitly listed by the province as essential, such as campus police, food facilities, institutional maintenance and information technology support will also continue. Critical staff supporting those functions will need to come to our campuses for work.

Academic Continuity

We are continuing to offer courses through alternative means without in-person meetings or class sessions, and all Faculties have notified students of plans for the final examination period. Details about the offering of summer courses will be available in the coming days. Thank you for the dedication and creativity of all those who contributed to this effort. Resources for instructors are available from the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation.

Student Residences and Services

The University last week requested students who live in residence, and who are able to return home, to do so. We continue to provide a welcoming home for international students, students whose family members are in self-isolation, and out-of-province students who need more time to make travel arrangements. Our dedicated residence staff are continuing to support students living on our campuses and the province has listed student residences as one of the essential services that will remain open. More information for students in residences is available on the Office of the Vice-Provost Students website.

Our accessibility services continue to provide support to students, and Student Life has moved many co-curricular events and workshops online to help students stay motivated, focused and connected.

Research

As of Friday, March 20, 2020, only those research labs that are conducting critical COVID-19 related research and time-sensitive critical projects with exemptions may continue.

For any research projects that have received an exemption to continue, the University is requiring social distancing as a measure to help disrupt the chain of transmission of COVID-19 in an effort to protect vulnerable individuals and to reduce overburden on our healthcare system. All those in research environments should continue to review the information from the University’s homepage, which is continually updated.

All other research should continue as possible remotely. No other on-campus research (i.e., research activities that have not received exemptions from the University) may be conducted.

Maintaining Operations and Working Remotely

Since March 16, a significant portion of U of T’s workforce has begun to work remotely and will continue to do so until further notice.

The province is encouraging those who can continue to work remotely to do so. We are in the process of assessing the Ontario essential workplace list and will notify employees in positions where there may be an impact in terms of requirements to be physically present on our campuses. At this time, only individuals in U of T-identified critical positions that require them to be on site may report to work on our three campuses. Individuals in these positions will be notified by their Divisional HR offices.

If you have questions about travel insurance, equipment, or other HR matters, please visit the HR & Equity COVID-19 website.

These are extraordinary times and we want to thank each of you for the adaptability and commitment you continue to show each day. The University is indebted to your talent and resourcefulness during a time when each day brings new challenges.