As you are aware, the situation with COVID-19 (Novel Corona Virus) is rapidly evolving. The Chief Medical Officer of Alberta has issued advisories and directives that we are not to have large public gatherings in our province, due to the risk of community transmission of COVID-19. Canadians outside of the country are advised to return to Canada as soon as possible, and as of today, there are now 56 known cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. Under these circumstances, and to minimize exposure and spread of COVID-19, there are a number of measures that the University has taken, and we can expect further measures will follow as the situation evolves. I urge our members to stay informed as we adapt to a changing circumstance.
AASUA operations and member services will continue as always. However, I have advised AASUA staff that they can work off-site, and they can conduct business through e-mail, phone and conference calls. Face to face meetings may be curtailed or eliminated depending on advisories and measures to protect AASUA staff and AASUA members. More information will be posted on the AASUA website on how to contact a Labour Relations Officer for member representation.
Arrangements have been made by the University for me, the SU, GSA, and NASA to participate in daily conference calls with the University Administration that will provide updates about COVID-19 and University measures in response. When relevant in these daily calls, I will provide input from the perspective and interests of our membership in the context of this shared challenge. I will also inform membership above and beyond that provided by the University if and when helpful or necessary.
The University has contacted instructors via email (fyiuofa) to move on-line for instruction by Tuesday this week (Mar 17), to substantially reduce chances of communal transmission of COVID-19. For some courses and circumstances, this can be an extraordinary challenge for instructors, and with such a short time frame. Furthermore, the initial message on this topic from the Administration indicated that exceptions to movement to on-line delivery were to be decided by the Deans who would then contact those instructors of courses that would remain off-line (a top-down approach). A clarification (fyiuofa) was issued yesterday from the Administration, that indicates flexibility and decision-making is in the hands of instructors (as it should be), regarding how they deliver remotely, and if they deliver remotely (in conjunction with faculty offices, i.e. bottom up). A key minimal element is an “eClass instance” (I assumed this means presence) for courses so that instructors can communicate with students as to their form of instruction and access to instructional materials. The Administration indicates that technical and instructional support units are available to assist, as well as assistance when necessary will be provided through faculty leadership. If after your own effort and assistance from supports, you find that supports have proved inadequate, please contact AASUA. We will alert the Administration for provision of assistance toward prompt solutions.
We haven’t yet approached the subjects of no in person final exams and the validity and appropriateness (likely not) of teaching evaluations under our new circumstances. These and other matters will demand attention. These are extraordinary times. Supporting each other directly and/or remotely will assist us all in meeting the significant challenges that COVID-19 presents us.