Message from the President: Supporting and taking care of one another

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This message was distributed to UPEI students, faculty, and staff on April 16, 2020 to their @upei.ca emails. While we will continue to update our COVID-19 website, the latest news will be first shared with the UPEI community by email and notifications will be sent by UPEI SAFE, the University’s safety app (available on The App Store and Google Play).

Dear Members of the University Community,

Today marks one month since the University of Prince Edward Island suspended in-person classes, labs, and exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, today, we have so much to be proud about: our resilient students, faculty, and staff have transitioned to alternate ways of learning, teaching, and working; the UPEI community is contributing to the broader Island community; and we are all supporting and taking care of one another.

At this one-month point, it is natural to ask ourselves, “what will come next, where do we go from here, what lies ahead?” As students reach the midway point of the exam period, many of them are wondering about summer employment, and what the next academic year will look like. Faculty and staff, many who are working remotely from home while others deliver essential services on campus, are wondering when the campus might return to some normalcy. All of us are wondering when physical distancing and staying-at-home directives may be relaxed.

The reality is that no one knows the answers to these questions, and this uncertainty is creating anxiety. However, at the same time, we can be extremely grateful that UPEI is located in Canada and on Prince Edward Island. I am so proud of our senior administrators who are looking at all possibilities, developing various scenarios, and studying implications to plan as best they can for the 2020–21 academic year. Our federal and provincial governments are working collaboratively and tremendously hard to find ways to support Canadians, Islanders, and our students.

Yesterday, the Honourable Brad Trivers, Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning, announced that the Government of PEI would bolster funding to the UPEI Student Union to help students in need. This will augment the Student Union’s $16,000 relief fund as well as the $70,000 that UPEI added to its Student Adversity Awards in response to COVID-19. The President of the Student Union, Emma Drake, and the Associate Vice-President of Students and Registrar, Donna Sutton, are working together on allocating these funds to students facing unexpected hardships. The Government of PEI announced an additional $75,000 for UPEI, which will be administered by Dr. Kathy Gottschall-Pass, interim Vice-President Academic and Research, to allow students to pursue summer research opportunities in their fields of interest. We must thank the UPEI Student Union Executive for advocating for this initiative on behalf of their peers.

The Honourable Wayne Easter, MP for Malpeque, and his parliamentary and senate colleagues lobbied on behalf of Islanders to open up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to seasonal workers, including post-secondary students who would typically be starting their summer jobs this month and next. We learned yesterday that the eligibility criteria for the CERB has been expanded.

While financial support is an important way to address the tremendous difficulty caused by COVID-19, I want to reassure all of our students that UPEI also remains committed to supporting you academically and your physical and mental well-being. Please reach out to your instructors if you have questions about your studies, contact our counselling team at Student Affairs if you need to talk, and call the UPEI Health and Wellness Centre if you need to see or speak with a health-care professional.  

Take comfort in knowing that while so many of our behaviours have changed during this crisis, some activities continue, although in different ways. Our recruitment team is launching a “virtual” open house on Monday, April 20, and registration continues online for incoming, first-year students. The Registrar’s Office is getting ready to prepare parchments for our graduating students, which will be mailed to them in May. We continue to meet and socialize, at a distance, via several online platforms.

Our PEI Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Morrison said, “the best way to come together is to stay apart.” As we continue to wonder about the future, let us also continue to follow the directives of our government officials and support and take care of one another through these challenging and unprecedented times.

Today, I am hopeful and confident that our strong and connected UPEI community will prevail.

Best wishes,

Alaa

 
 
Dr. Alaa S. Abd-El-Aziz
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Prince Edward Island
 

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