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Dean Wendy Duff’s COVID-19 Messages

Submitted on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

April 3: Last Day of Classes

Dear Faculty of Information Students,

Today we mark a milestone – the end of classes for a semester unlike any other. I felt it was important to take this opportunity to write to you and say that I hope you’re all keeping as safe, secure and healthy as possible as this semester winds down.

From the personal but online conversations I’ve had with members of our community, I know that while there is certainly overlap in how we’re all experiencing this COVID-19 crisis, no two people are having the same experience.

At the Faculty, we’ve tried our hardest to take this into account as we’ve dealt and continue to deal with the current situation. We know your personal circumstances are unique and we are ready and willing to work with you to do everything we can to allow you to complete your semester successfully. Please know too that you can always reach out to me or the staff and faculty members here at the Faculty of Information about everything from emergency financial aid and volunteer opportunities to a chance to chat with someone outside your immediate social circles.

To mark the end of classes, we have scheduled a virtual version of our traditional iTea for next Thursday April 9 from 3-4 p.m. Alas, we can’t supply the tea and sandwiches this spring, but we’re planning out activities and hope to pleasantly surprise you.

Many of you will also have already seen today’s message from the President about Convocation. The Faculty of Information is committed to holding our own Convocation event, complete with all the regalia, pomp and ceremony that graduates so rightly expect. There will also, of course, be a fabulous reception. While we can’t yet commit to a date, we can commit to a future Convocation for the Class of 2020. In the meantime, we will keep in touch via our web pages (UofT and Faculty of Information), social media, the Virtual Inforum and email. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Sincerely,

Wendy Duff

Professor and Dean

March 24: Bissell Building Closing

Dear Students,

Before I get to the central message of this email, I wanted to acknowledge once again what a privilege it is for me to be the Dean of this Faculty with its incredibly engaged students, who have been an ongoing source of inspiration to all of us throughout these difficult past weeks.

Earlier today, I received notice from the Provost outlining the steps the university will take to comply with the province’s Essential Services announcement, made earlier this week and effective as of midnight tonight.

We have been asked to close the Bissell Building to anyone has not been designated an essential services employee of the Faculty of Information. For you, that means two things:

  • It is no longer possible to study or work in the building
  • If you have items you need to retrieve from the building in order to continue to study and work at home, you should contact chris.scammell@utoronto.ca.

The Provost is also aware that a small number of students have continued to use the university’s libraries in recent days in order to access their courses. Efforts are underway on all three campuses to support individual requests. Students should use the Contact Us button located at the top of the FAQ section on the University web site in order to receive additional information.

Likewise, if you have continued to use the Bissell Building, perhaps because your other options are limited, you should not hesitate to reach out to me if you need assistance to successfully complete your academic work. The team here at the Faculty is committed to working with you and enabling you to complete your studies successfully.

Yours sincerely,

Wendy Duff

Dean and Professor

March 23: Emergency Bursary available for Covid-19 related expenses

Dear Faculty of Information Students,

After more than a week of major changes, I wanted to give you some news about special funding available to help students who have experienced financial hardship due to the impact of COVID-19.

How to deliver relief most effectively to University of Toronto students has been under discussion for several days. I have had meetings with all UofT Deans as well as the School of Graduate Studies. As a result, I am able to announce today that the Faculty of Information has transferred funds to a special emergency bursary for impacted students.

I urge Faculty of Information students facing financial hardship due to the Coronavirus to fill out this form and start the process as soon as possible. If you have questions about the bursary before or during the application process, please contact Sherry Dang sherry.lin@utoronto.ca.

If you have concerns about non-financial issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at dean.ischool@utoronto.ca. And, as always, you can check the Faculty’s dedicated COVID-19 web page for updates and links.

Yours sincerely,

Wendy Duff
Professor and Dean

March 20: Messaging and socializing from a distance

Dear members of the Faculty of Information Community,

As our first week of being an online university and online Faculty draws to a close, I wanted to check back in with everyone to say that I sincerely hope you are able to take some time to care for yourselves and your family this weekend.

What we have all accomplished in just one week is truly amazing. I hope you can savour that achievement even as you experience the complications of coping with the coronavirus and transitioning to an online environment for learning, teaching and research.

I’ve attended a number of online activities this week and can say that it truly raised my spirits. Next week, we are starting up a Virtual Inforum and hope we’ll see a lot of you there. Stay tuned for more news about that and the virtual coffees and teas organized by students, faculty and staff. I highly recommend this socializing from a distance.

As you almost certainly know, both the Faculty and the University have go-to web pages where you should be able to find links to all the information you need.

The Faculty of Information’s COVID-19 page with information specific to our Faculty

The University of Toronto’s main COVID-19 page

If there’s anything missing or anything you think others would benefit from knowing, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I really want to hear your feedback.

Once again, I wish you all the best weekend possible.

Very sincerely yours,

Wendy Duff

Professor and Dean

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March 17: Update for Faculty of Information students re services and facilities

Dear Faculty of Information Students,

The situation with COVID-19 is evolving faster than we could have anticipated. Earlier today, the Premier of Ontario declared a state of emergency and the Prime Minister has encouraged all Canadians to stay home whenever possible. 

In response to these announcements, the University has taken steps to scale back on-site operations and allow employees to work from home. At the same time the University remains open and committed to ensuring that our students can complete their term. I’ve already heard from a number of you that many of your courses have successfully moved online and are going well.

Depending on your individual situations, you may prefer to leave Toronto and return to your homes. Given that we are moving all academic activity online, this is a perfectly acceptable option. 

At the Bissell Building, our essential operations will be managed largely, if not entirely, online.  While the building itself remains accessible by fob, you would need to direct your queries and your paperwork electronically. Queries should go to the same people you usually deal with or if you don’t have a regular contact for the issue in question, please email inquire.ischool@utoronto.ca. 

If for some reason you do not have a fob and need one, please email chris.scammell@utoronto.ca. 

If you require a technology loan, please see the Faculty of Information’s COVID-19 webpage  for details.

To maintain our sense of community, some professors have already arranged online tea and coffee groups. You should expect more updates about these types of activities. We want to stay connected with you.

Going fully online is new territory for the Faculty of Information and our community. I appreciate your support in making this a success, and I encourage you to share your feedback with me at dean.ischool@utoronto.ca. Above all else, we want to ensure that our collective efforts are successful in meeting the needs of students, staff and faculty at this uncertain and challenging time.

Our primary concern is the safety and health (both physical and mental) of all the members of this wonderful community. Please take all the steps needed for you and your family to stay healthy.

Yours sincerely,

Wendy Duff

Professor and Dean

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