Fall term classes will be online: President’s letter

Dear Members of the McMaster community,

In a world that continues to change so quickly, it is important that we are able to provide clarity on McMaster’s plans for the fall 2020 academic term.

We want our students and everyone at the University to be as safe as possible, to have the support they need to be successful and to be confident that our decisions are based on public health advice. We know there are very real concerns regarding the evolution of the pandemic in the fall term and what that could mean for the health and well-being of every member of the McMaster community.

  • Classes for the entire fall term will be online.
  • With few exceptions students will not need to be on campus to take their courses.
  • Undergraduate students entering the first year of their programs will not need to be on campus for the fall term with the exception of a limited number of health care professional courses. Students enrolling in such programs will receive additional information directly from their departments.
  • Labs and other specialized facilities will only be available in very limited cases. Faculty and staff are encouraged to continue to find alternate means to deliver these types of programs or to redistribute courses so that work requiring access to labs or other types of facilities can be completed at a future time.
  • A process for programs to request use of labs and other specialized facilities, where essential to meet program requirements, is in development and requests will require approval from the Department Chair, Dean and the Provost’s Office.
  • We are investing significantly in the online experience to assist faculty in developing high quality online programs that continue to provide students with opportunities to interact with each other and their instructors.
  • We are enhancing support for all students with particular emphasis on student well-being, mental health, technical assistance, and ensuring accessibility.
  • To help ensure that first-year students are welcomed into the McMaster community, and are able to find friends and mentors, we have developed the Archway program that will bring together small groups of students with coaches to create a memorable and successful first-year experience.
  • Prioritizing health and safety will significantly limit the availability of residences on campus and spaces will only be available on an exceptional basis.

In the coming days please watch for communications with additional information that will be sent to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff.

Our commitment to excellence will continue to guide our work and we hope that these decisions will help all areas of the University prioritize and focus their planning for the fall term.

We believe that by making these decisions now we will create as much certainty as possible for students, faculty and staff at a time when it is impossible to predict how the pandemic will unfold.

As we enter the next phase of the pandemic, we will see some research activity that can only be done on campus begin to accelerate. Acting Vice-President (Research), Karen Mossman, will continue to share information and guidance as these research activities resume. Labs and other locations on campus must strictly adhere to all public health advice and physical distancing requirements.  Groups across campus, including the University’s operations committee, are preparing wayfinding and other building, lab and health and safety information and resources so we are well prepared to welcome back these researchers.

As you all know, our spring and summer terms are currently underway and I appreciate all the work that has taken place across our campus to allow us to run these programs in the virtual learning environment. Enrolment for the 2020 spring and summer terms actually exceeds 2019 for both domestic and international students.

I want to thank everyone who is working so hard to keep campus operating, teaching in our spring and summer terms, supporting students, and helping staff work remotely and balance their working and home lives. Your commitment is appreciated and will become even more important as we move forward.

These are not easy times and they require us to work through difficult decisions.  We all need to take care of ourselves and watch out for each other as colleagues and friends.  It is that spirit of community and family that helps to make McMaster such a special place, whether we are sitting across from each other or are working alone at our dining room tables.

Thank you for your many contributions and please stay informed as the University continues to share plans and programs to further our academic and research mission and keep our students, faculty and staff safe.


David Farrar