A message from Human Resources (May 6, 2020)
I am writing today to remind you of the supports available to help protect your mental health.
May 4 to 10 is the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week. Compared to previous years, this year’s Mental Health Week may have a different meaning for many of us as we are in the unique situation of being in isolation from one another.
Some are isolating alone, and others are in close quarters with family or roommates. And, inevitably, many of us are finding ourselves moving along the stages of the mental health meter. Sometimes, we are feeling well and optimistic, and we are having a sunny day. Other times, we experience stormy days where we feel frustrated, stressed or depressed. During these times, we must give ourselves permission to experience those feelings. However, it is important that we use the supports and resources available to help get us through difficult times.
In addition, we should try to remain aware of our family’s mental health. Are your children acting out (more than usual)? Is there more arguing or tension between family members? Have you been connecting with family at a distance to see how they are doing? Recognizing these changes in yourself and others, and putting strategies in place to cope, will help you and your family protect your mental health.
Along with the resources available to you through our Employee and Family Assistance Program (visit workhealthlife.com or call 1-844-880-9142), the Canadian Mental Health Association is sharing a mental health tool kit. And Morneau Shepell has some great articles on maintaining mental balance during these unprecedented times. Information in articles such as these can help build your resilience for the inevitable stormy days.
For a summary of resources, visit the Human Resources website on the MSVU intranet (log-in required).
Take good care.
New President’s Student Relief Fund (April 1, 2020)
I hope this note finds you safe and well, and while I, like you, look forward to a return to a sense of normalcy, I take comfort in knowing that by following the health protocols established by the Province, we are each doing our part to hasten that return.
As part of my ongoing efforts to keep you up-to-date on the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m writing today to make you aware of the new President’s Student Relief Fund that I have established at MSVU. In keeping with the spirit of benevolence that has guided this University since its inception by the Sisters of Charity almost 150 years ago, the fund has been established with altruism and community as the distinguishing components.
As you know, we are working hard to respond to the ever-evolving issues and impacts of the pandemic. Together with MSVU’s Advancement Team, this Fund was established as an additional means of responding to the pressing needs of our students. It will support students experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I encourage you to read the media release below for additional details; it will be issued later today. You can also contact Denise Green (firstname.lastname@example.org), Executive Director of Advancement at MSVU, for more information. The above embedded link has been provided, should you wish to join me in supporting this Fund. I am pleased to share that I have been joined, in making my inaugural contribution to the Fund, by the MSVU Alumni Association, who have donated $5,000 to support their future Alumni family members – and by the full Management Forum Team.
On behalf of our students, thank you for considering a contribution. In doing so, you are demonstrating – as consistently you do – that “community” is not simply an adjective that we use to describe this institution, rather it is the essence of who we are and of the values that we collectively hold dear.
In concluding, I want to thank you for your unwavering support throughout this unprecedented time. Correspondingly, your well-being is of utmost importance to me, and I want to encourage you to reach out to seek assistance should you be experiencing difficulties in this unsettling time.
Stay safe and well.
Message to all faculty from VP Academic and Provost (March 24, 2020)
First and foremost, I am writing to thank you for all that you are doing to support our students and the university community during this very challenging time. As I listen to stories of care and concern, I am heartened, and also very proud to be a part of the Mount community. None of us could have imagined a situation like this unfolding so dramatically and so quickly. It is hard to believe that only 11 days ago we made the decision to cancel face-to-face classes and examinations for the Winter 2020 academic session; so much has happened in the world, in Canada, and in Nova Scotia since then.
Please know that Mary is in regular communication with our Board Chair, Anne McGuire and with our Chancellor, Sister Joan. Our Board is kept informed and is very supportive of all of us during this time.
To share information, plan, and respond to this situation, Mary, Mustansar, I participate in a daily conference call with folks from Labour and Advanced Education, the other Nova Scotian Universities, and NSCC. We hold daily skype for business meetings with Management Forum and our newly formed, Rapid Response Team. Mustansar also meets daily with our Emergency Response Team.
The health and safety of MSVU faculty, staff, students, and the broader community is of utmost importance to us. At this time of social distancing and with all other stressors we face, it is important for us to pay attention to our mental health.
The Senior Administrative team has been working hard to address concerns that have arisen over the last days. Know that we are here to support you as best as we can. Please reach out to any of us with your emerging concerns or questions.
We have been communicating with you through the campus bulletin but I thought that it might be useful to compile the most relevant information for you in one place. This information follows.
Appreciating the difficulties that some faculty members are facing with student assessments, we are extending the deadline for grade submissions to May 8th at 4:30 pm.
There has been a lot of discussion and debate in the University sector about moving to a Pass/Fail option with the Winter 2020 courses and we are all aware that there are advantages and disadvantages with this approach. The University of Alberta recently adopted the Pass/Fail model and a student petition against it generated more than 11,000 signatures. We are considering offering students the option of requesting a pass/fail assessment if there are extenuating circumstances, similar to the approach adopted by the University of Calgary.
We would welcome your feedback and ideas about this. Please forward your considerations to your Deans by the end of the week.
Academic supports/accommodations for students
- We will suspend dismissal and probationary status based on performance for Winter 2020.
- We will remove WFs from Winter 2020 and change them to Ws.
- Students may withdraw from courses until 4:30 pm on April 3.
We will share an update with students about these accommodations later today.
As noted in the MSVUFA joint statement with senior administration (dated March 16, 2020) and communicated with CUPE, SRIQs are optional for this term and for full-year courses that will be finishing this term. There will be no repercussions if a faculty member chooses not to administer an evaluation. If faculty wish to proceed with SRIQs, they should contact the Dean’s office at email@example.com to have those student evaluations administered online.
Summer session 1 update
Undergraduate and graduate (all faculties): Summer Session 1 online courses will continue as planned. Face-to-face delivery courses will not take place in Summer Session 1. However, the number and range of online courses will be expanded. Additional online courses that will be offered in Summer Session 1 will be added to the timetable.
Please be aware that in cases where a face-to-face delivery course is cancelled, registered students will be contacted by Registrar’s Office staff. Students will be able to register for new online courses if they wish.
Summer Session 1 graduate education cohorts will also be delivered online.
Although we are preparing to move to virtual course delivery for Summer Session 2, we have not made a final decision at this point.
The TLCOL’s Online Learning team is prepared and ready to help answer your questions and support you as you prepare and deliver your courses online. We will continue to offer workshops and one-on-one consultations online and over the phone throughout the upcoming months.
The TLCOL can:
- consult with you about your course, review your course outline, and offer suggestions about how to translate your face-to-face offerings to an online environment
- suggest technologies that will support the delivery of your course online
- train you on how to use the technologies supported by MSVU (Moodle, Blackboard Collaborate, and more)
- help you prepare aspects of your online course (e.g. forums, quizzes, assignments)
- provide feedback on aspects of your course design
The support we are providing to faculty to prepare their courses for online delivery is distinct from our usual course development process. In the current context, our focus is to help faculty members prepare their own courses to teach online and not to develop a more extensive departmental resource that can be used to support its delivery by other full and part-time faculty members.
If you want assistance with any aspect of delivering your online course, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email will be directed to a team member who will respond to your request and get back to you with the support you need.
- Cyber safety information from MSVU IT&S
- COVID-19 specific cyber safety advice from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security
- Working from Home information (intranet link) from MSVU IT&S for faculty and staff
- Security Tips for Remote Workers (PDF) by the National Cyber Security Alliance
- Top 5 Steps to Securely Work from Home (SANS) (PDF) by the SANS Institute
AVPR and Dean Searches
Candidate campus visits are very important to the Mount community. Because it is very unclear when restrictions around public gatherings will be lifted, we have decided to cancel both of these searches and relaunch them in the fall. We will be appointing an Acting AVPR and an Acting Dean to these roles for the 2020-21 academic year.
In closing, I would like to thank you again for your work, understanding, and caring during this difficult time.
Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19 and advice on working from home (March 23, 2020)
While the COVID-19 outbreak is in many ways a shared experience around the world and we are united in a collective challenge to protect our physical health, it is also a deeply isolating experience as it is the first-time we have been so broadly restricted from gathering socially and communicating in person. For some of us, we will remain without the comfort of social interaction for an indefinite amount of time.
That’s why we must work together to care for not only our physical health, but also our mental health. At MSVU, we are committed to helping our community members ensure good mental health during this time, recognizing that although we are all in a similar situation, each person’s experience of that situation will be different. All should have access to resources that provide sound information to help us cope and persevere through this pandemic.
You may find the following tips helpful as you form new routines:
- Continue with regular sleeping/wake-up times
- Practice mindfulness exercises at regular intervals to reduce stress
- Where possible, walk or bike outdoors once a day (be sure to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others)
- Engage in household projects
- Participate in regular online check-ins with colleagues, family and friends
The following are links to mental health services available to you during this time:
- Employee & Family Assistance Program (or EFAP) – Shepell (free, confidential counselling services for MSVU faculty and staff)
- Strongest Families Institute (Nova Scotia Health Authority) (a resource for parents/guardians)
- Canadian Mental Health Association
Additional self-care tips
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. (The Mount Fitness Centre may be closed, but they’re still working to keep you moving – visit them on Facebook.)
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Working from home during COVID-19
These are challenging times and we appreciate entirely the complexities of working from home. Many have young children at home with them or are caring for elderly parents. Others carry the additional stress of having family members whose jobs have been affected by this situation. Know that the University community will support you to the greatest extent possible. You are encouraged to speak to your manager/supervisor, chair or dean as needed.
A note to staff
The following is offered as guidance for MSVU staff who are adjusting to working from home. The person to whom you report can help you establish a daily work schedule and clarify expectations around the following:
- Work hours — Establish hours of work for each day, with the expectation that employees be available during these hours
- Schedule — Communicate break times and routine email check-in times (for example: you may decide that emails will be checked at 9am/11am/3pm each day, while taking a lunch from noon to 1pm)
- Daily work planning — Outline daily work assignments and goals
- Longer-term planning — Determine longer term assignments or projects to be worked on outside of daily assignments
- Communications — Establish the best forms of communication: phone, conference calls, video calls, text or email
- Document security — Ensuring that work being completed at home is kept confidential and all documents are closed securely each day; consult with IT&S and your manager about the best way to share confidential documents
Additional tips for working from home
- If possible, create a designated work area, separate from your usual living space
- Schedule work start/end times and breaks
- Know when your best time of day is and schedule your most difficult work tasks for when you are most alert and focused
- Work with members of your household so that they know when you need their support to be able to work
These are challenging times and we encourage you to make time to take good care of yourself. Please be in touch with your MSVU community should you need any support. You can reach members of the Human Resources team on email as per usual.
Message to faculty from the Deans – March 14, 2020 (1:30p.m.)
Last night a faculty member, emailed to say, “When I was asked recently what I love about the Mount, I said it’s how we always come together when the chips are down.” It’s true. We are good at supporting one another. So, let’s hold on to that as we work together to navigate this complex and difficult situation.
As noted yesterday, in-person classes and labs will be suspended until the end of term, and instructors are encouraged to move to different modes of delivery wherever possible. With this in mind, we have attached a TLCOL infographic containing a number of concrete suggestions. Please consider them carefully and note that there are extra supports available through TLCOL.
Your commitment to our students and their education is what makes the Mount great. We are very thankful for your flexibility and leadership in this challenging time