I have confidence in our collective ability to continue to effect positive change: President’s letter

Dear members of the McMaster community,

Normally at this time of year, we are sharing stories of how we spent our summers: great trips somewhere in Canada or abroad, exuberant family reunions, summer camps and summer programs, newly-discovered adventures and experiences. This year, the stories are quieter and closer to home. Maybe you did some canoeing or hiking in Ontario, as I did; maybe your garden looks terrific or you accomplished a few much-postponed projects. Perhaps you spent a lot of time keeping children active and away from their screens as much as possible.

However we spent our summers, we are starting the Fall term this year in a different and unfamiliar place. We are anxious about our children returning to in-person schooling and child care; we worry about our parents and older relatives and their vulnerability to the COVID-19 virus as the cooler weather returns and we spend more time indoors. And we are feeling increasing urgency to respond in a meaningful way to long-standing issues of inequity and discrimination.

While we may not have had the benefits of a summer of relaxing and re-charging in the usual ways, we are returning to our labs and classrooms with a renewed sense of gravity and purpose. Instead of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 and the additional work it has generated, faculty and staff at McMaster have risen to the challenge of finding new ways to do our jobs and to connect with students and colleagues. I am thinking of the MacPherson Institute and the technology staff across campus, who developed tools and resources and delivered training sessions to hundreds of faculty and instructors as they converted their courses to online formats. I am thinking of the welcome activities, webinars and outreach efforts that have happened throughout the University to prepare incoming students for a successful year, especially Archway, which saw close to 5,000 first-year students sign up for personalized and small group support.

I know that Library staff have been developing study space, residence staff are helping students who need to quarantine, the Campus Store is shipping course materials directly to students, the Registrar’s office is making sure class schedules are right, staff in the Student Wellness Centre are prepared to support students who need help, even if they are not physically here… It is impossible to capture the energy and efforts of all those people who are keeping the lights on, the systems running, our students, friends and alumni engaged, and bringing us fully prepared to the start of the Fall term.

And the students are ready to go. I met many of them, including new international students, during Welcome Week online activities. Even in a virtual environment their energy was palpable and inspiring. They know the challenges we are facing, locally and globally, and they are impatient to start learning and find answers.

While all this has been happening, McMaster researchers have continued to advance our discovery and understanding across the spectrum of disciplines. Our researchers are leading the country and the world in unlocking the mysteries of COVID-19 and pandemics, and in finding solutions for the societal impacts they cause. Our Engineering researchers are working to address supply chain problems with protective equipment, and to design, test and modify new forms of personal protective equipment and testing materials.

As we move forward as a community I have confidence in our collective ability to continue to effect positive change and to find solutions to the challenges we are all facing. I am optimistic about the future of our University and will soon be asking you all for your input on our long-term vision and the most important societal issues we should be seeking to address. I look forward to your feedback and engagement in this important discussion.

In the meantime, as we all continue our work, whether at a University location or at home, I want to thank you for continuing to take care of your own well-being, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing and helping those members of our broader community who need assistance or a caring voice. Please stay tuned to the Daily News and McMaster’s COVID-19 website and to social media channels for new developments and resources.

Welcome to the Fall term 2020. It is definitely going to be a year to remember.


David Farrar