The following messages from University of Manitoba have been published on the university’s news portal after the first presumptive case of Covid-19 in Winnipeg was announced on March 12. The situation remains very fluid and what happens next will hinge on the measures the university and/or provincial health authorities decide to take. UMSU will continue to publish updates on our website as well as social media as they become available.
March 18, 2020 update: The following recommendations from the U of M Pandemic Planning Committee – of which UMSU is a part – were approved this afternoon by the university’s Senate Executive Committee.
Registration for Summer Term
The Committee recommends that registration for Summer Term courses (defined as courses offered May – August) be suspended indefinitely.
Addition to List of Acceptable English Language Proficiency Tests
The Committee recommends that Duo-lingo be approved as an acceptable test of English Language Proficiency (ELP) for the purposes of applying for admission for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 intakes. The proposed minimum acceptable test score is 115 which equates to approximately 7.0 on the IELTS test. This recommendation is made in order to increase the number and availability of acceptable tests of ELP at UM because the pandemic situation has interfered with the ability of international students in some regions to access the currently accepted tests. Duo-Lingo is recognized globally as comparable to IELTS and TOEFL. It is available online so may be completed without accessing a formal test centre. Duo-Lingo has already been approved for use as an acceptable test of ELP by a number of other universities in Canada including Dalhousie, Queen’s, McGill, Alberta, Calgary, UBC, and Simon Fraser.
The Committee recommends that Section 2.5. (a) of the ‘Repeated Course’ policy be suspended indefinitely. This section stipulates that any student who has voluntarily withdrawn from, or received a final grade in, a course is prevented from repeating the course for the immediately succeeding three consecutive terms. The Committee recommends suspending the Policy so as not to disadvantage any student who withdraws or performs more poorly than hoped under the current exceptional learning conditions.
Medical Notes Not Required
The Committee recommends that students not be required to provide medical notes in support of absences from class activities/requirements and from evaluations including final examinations. Students will be required to self-declare through email note to an Advisor in the relevant Faculty that they will be unable to meet their course obligations. This declaration will be treated as necessary and sufficient for the student to be afforded reasonable accommodation.
No In-person Final Examinations
The Committee recommends that no in-person final examinations be held for any courses offered in whole or in part in the Winter 2020 term, and that all assessments be completed by alternative means. Instructors will have the latitude and responsibility to adjust assessments as they deem most suitable and appropriate (e.g., online tests, take-home tests, new assignments, adjusted weightings of completed assessments, etc.) and to communicate these changes promptly to students and unit heads The current exam period (April 13 – 25) will be maintained to provide a dedicated period within which online examinations may be scheduled. Instructors must consult with the Registrar’s Office regarding any intention to offer a scheduled online final examination.
The Committee recommends that no in-person instruction or assessment for any courses take place until at least September 1, 2020. All instruction will take place by alternate methods until at least September 1, 2020.
Summer Courses Start Date
The Committee recommends that summer courses (broadly defined as courses that were scheduled to take place between early May and the end of August) begin no earlier than June 1, 2020 and be completed no later than August 31, 2020. The Registrar’s Office will be responsible for determining an academic schedule for this period.
March 17, 2020 update: Message from Laurie Schnarr, Vice-Provost (Students)
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding during this uncertain time. I want to reiterate to you the UM’s commitment to protecting your health and safety, and to minimizing the negative impact on your academic progress.
Over the coming days I will be communicating new developments as decisions are made. Today there are four updates I would ask you to note:
- The Voluntary Withdrawal date has been changed to April 13. This will allow you to consider whether you want to voluntarily remove yourself from a course after experiencing the changes to the delivery and evaluation methods that will be implemented in your courses starting tomorrow. If you choose to Voluntarily Withdraw from a course, you can do so in Aurora. It is recommended that international students discuss Voluntary Withdrawal options with an International Student Advisor at the International Centre prior to making the decision to withdraw from a course. Generally, students are encouraged to discuss your options with an academic advisor – you can find contact information on the website.
- Winter term courses. Keep in contact with your instructors to receive information about your courses and any changes to assignments. Details about the final examination period will be available soon.
- Summer Term registration will be suspended for now. We plan to resume Summer Term registration as soon as we determine implications for our summer course schedule.
- Services for students. Academic advising, student supports, and other services continue to be available to students, although the method of delivery may have changed. To support social distancing, many offices are currently providing telephone or email appointments, with additional resources available online. If you plan to come to campus to visit a particular office, please call ahead to determine the best way to access help. Students who are ill are asked to not visit offices in-person.
You can find all UM updates about COVID-19, including FAQs for students that we will update as new information becomes available, on umanitoba.ca/coronavirus.
I will be back in touch soon. Stay safe and please be sure to continue following Manitoba Health directives concerning social distancing, hand washing, and coughing/sneezing etiquette. Attention to these individual actions will contribute significantly to the safety and wellbeing of people and communities during this challenging time.
All my best,
March 13, 2020 update: A message from President David Barnard:
To the University of Manitoba community,
Yesterday I communicated our commitment to taking measures to protect the health and safety of our campuses and our wider community. Our top priority is doing our part to help contain the transmission of COVID-19.
In that same spirit, today I am announcing that there will be no classes on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17. The University campuses will remain open on those days, but there will no classes.
This two-day pause allows the University to prepare to move classes to alternative modes of instruction.
To be clear, as of Wednesday, March 18 there will NO IN-PERSON CLASSES, with rare exceptions that will be communicated directly to those affected. All in-person undergraduate and research-stream Master’s and Doctoral instruction will end March 13. Instruction will be provided by other means that may include existing online platforms. This will continue through the end of the term on April 7.
For now, the voluntary withdrawal date will remain the same (March 18), as will the exam period (April 13-25). We will assess this during the “pause” and communicate further details end of day Tuesday, March 17, or sooner if available.
Our staff are working hard to keep as much of the University operational as possible. The University remains open and we are continuing to provide students with as many essential services as possible under the circumstances. Please keep referring to umanitoba.ca for information and updates.
As I referenced in yesterday’s communication, all non-essential events involving 50 or more participants have been cancelled or postponed.
We continue to actively encourage everyone to maintain the hygiene and social distancing protocols outlined by health authorities.
As we reflect on all the information coming our way during this challenging period, I ask everyone to demonstrate patience and understanding.
The COVID-19 threat is new to all of us; none of us have dealt with precisely this situation before. We are acting out of an abundance of caution and with the best interests in mind of this and the larger community. We are all dealing with this together. We are committed to doing our best and making the best decisions.
Thank you for your attention. Please look after yourselves and one another.
To members of the University of Manitoba community:
The University of Manitoba today is taking measures to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on its campuses and in the wider community, and, ultimately, to support the province’s health care system.
Our plan today is to keep the University of Manitoba open. The campuses are not closed. However, we are limiting levels of on-campus activity in order to mitigate COVID-19 transmission.
I recognize that these actions will cause disruption and inconvenience, but as Manitoba’s largest post-secondary institution with a student population of more than 29,000 and more than 10,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff, we have a responsibility to do all we can to lead the effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in this province.
My colleagues and I have consulted widely with other universities and our own health care experts, and, heeding the advice of public health authorities, we have made the determination that the need to act is now, while there is still a window of opportunity to make a positive impact and to the extent possible, help protect the community.
These measures are effective immediately and will stay in place until further notice.
These changes will take many forms as they unfold, but most critically they will involve:
- We are not cancelling classes or exams at this time.
- Deans have been asked to work with their departments and faculty to make all course materials for the remainder of the term available online and to consider alternate assessment methods that can allow for social distancing practices.
- The Registrar’s Office is currently working on an alternate final examination schedule that would reduce the number of students in any given exam venue to incorporate best social distancing practices.
- With respect to summer term, we will be looking at how we can employ on-line methods.
- Co-op and integrated learning program leads are to look at contingency plans for students involved in off-site learning opportunities.
- University-sponsored events of 50 people or more will be cancelled or postponed.
- Organizers of smaller events will be required to consider alternate ways of doing those events that need to proceed (e.g., not providing food, hosting in large spaces offering sufficient flexibility for social distancing, or hosting online versions of events)
- All university-related travel should be suspended for faculty, staff and students, where possible. Specific guidelines will be developed to assist in this process.
- All students on international placements will be advised to return to Canada. Planning is underway to address the implications for these students of leaving a placement prior to its completion.
- Messages regarding physical contact, cough and sneeze etiquette, hand washing, the use of sanitizers and disinfectant wipe are being widely shared and circulated.
- All employees who show flu-like symptoms must not report to work and take the advice provided by public health officials.
- While keeping the university operational remains a priority, heads of units will assess options for staff to work from home. If feasible, work from home agreements will be initiated and support arrangements for the provision of the necessary tools to do so will be facilitated on a priority basis.
- We continue to urge our community to follow all health and safety protocols.
- We will update the www.umanitoba.ca webpage with new information as it becomes available.
Those are the most important measures for you to note at this time. Please pay close attention to all the announcements and details that will follow, from the institutional sources (UM homepage, UMToday, emails), as well as information from your specific units, managers and instructors.
We will continue to keep student residences open, dining operations and other services and supports, where possible.
We ask everyone to adhere to the health and safety precautions already outlined in detail in our UMToday story and public health websites. Please keep at least two metres away from one another, wash your hands carefully and regularly, stay home if you are feeling ill, and follow all proper protocols.
None of these planned actions I have shared today with you are being taken lightly. I assure you that we are making decisions that we feel are the best for our immediate and wider community, and based on sound scientific advice. UM has been a leader for decades in global public health research and community outreach. We have a responsibility now to make every effort possible to play our part in meeting this current challenge.
While we take these proactive and preventive measures, members of our UM community continue to play a key role in directly addressing the impacts of COVID-19, medically, socially, economically, and in other relevant spheres. I thank them and express here our deeply felt support for their efforts.
Please join me in working together to play our part in keeping ourselves and our community as safe and healthy as possible.
I thank you for your understanding.
David T. Barnard, O.M., Ph.D., FRSC
President and Vice-Chancellor