Message from the Board of Governors

April 21, 2020

A message of heartfelt gratitude from the Board of Governors to everyone at the University of British Columbia

First and foremost, we hope this message finds each of you and your loved ones keeping well during this challenging time. Your health and wellbeing is, and will remain, the top priority of all those responsible for administering and overseeing UBC.

The purpose of this message is to convey to each of you, from the University’s Board of Governors, our genuine and most sincere gratitude for the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices that are being made, across both campuses and throughout UBC, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The public health crisis created by the global spread of COVID-19 has presented unparalleled challenges for our Province, Canada and the world.  British Columbians were asked by our government to voluntarily follow a series of health protocols, including some difficult but necessary physical distancing rules.  Based on the results being reported by Dr. Bonnie Henry (an extraordinary member of UBC’s faculty), BC’s provincial health officer, and the Honourable Adrian Dix, BC’s Minister of Health, it appears that those protocols are having a significantly positive impact in demonstrably ‘flattening the curve’ and relieving our health system of/from some of the massive demands that have overwhelmed health systems elsewhere.

Here at UBC, we have not been immune to the challenges that the physical distancing rules have created. Over the course of the past month, Professor Santa Ono, our President and Vice-Chancellor, has announced a number of difficult decisions, starting with the direction to transition to online classes, effective March 16, 2020, for the remainder of the term at UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan and UBC Robson Square; followed by decisions to shift final examinations and assessments from in-person to online (thereby allowing undergraduate international and domestic students to return home at their discretion); postpone in-person Spring Graduation ceremonies; curtailing of on-campus research activities, and a shift Term 1 and Term 2 of Summer Session to online across both campuses including the Summer Session for Vantage One (Arts, Science and Engineering) programs.

Those decisions were very difficult to make, but were and are fully supported by the Board of Governors as being in the best interests of the UBC community. We know, however, that they have created significant challenges and hardships, and the Board could not be more appreciative of the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of everyone at UBC. That this has been accomplished while you were also dealing with the threat of COVID-19 to yourselves and your loved ones, and associated stresses and uncertainties, does you tremendous credit.

With this, we wish to recognize:

  • All UBC students, including both domestic and international, who have been faced with challenges that are unparalleled in scope/nature, and personal circumstances that, in many cases, added additional anxiety and threats. You have worked with the University as it made these various transitions and accommodated the extra demands that this has placed on you.  And, for those students who were looking forward to your Spring Graduation ceremonies, we know how much the loss of such celebrations of all of the work you have put into your university education mean to you and your loved ones.  In addition to the virtual graduation ceremonies currently being planned, we join President Ono in committing to arrange for an in-person celebration as/when it once again becomes possible to hold larger gatherings. We also gratefully acknowledge the work of the student volunteers who have kept the AMS Foodbank operating to help address the food security needs of students on campus.
  • Regarding the remarkable transition, effectively undertaken over just a weekend, by UBC’s faculty members of their courses to online delivery, UBC owes each faculty member a tremendous debt of gratitude for your inestimable efforts to effect the successful online transition. We also acknowledge that, throughout, you prioritized the best interests of the students in your classes and adhered to the teaching standards that have made UBC a globally-recognized leader among post-secondary institutions.
  • Our researchers, in all disciplines and on both campuses, whose on-campus research has been curtailed and working spaces closed, and whose interactions with students have changed so profoundly, but who have continued to move their research forward; and, to those researchers who have so quickly responded to the research demands of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • UBC staff, both on our campuses and working remotely, across student services, campus operations, planning, communications, human resources and central administration. We know it has fallen upon you to do much of the hard work of managing the added challenges of responding to and planning for our COVID-19 preparedness.
  • The emergency response team, which has been meeting daily (sometimes several times per day) since this crisis was recognized, for the incredible job that you have been and are doing to help plan for the unexpected, respond to the myriad challenges we have faced and ensure that the crisis does not divert the University from the fulfillment of our academic mission.
  • The Deans, Associate and Assistant Deans and the Department Heads, on whom much of the heavy burden and responsibility for coordinating and planning the academic response to this crisis has fallen, and who have taken the leadership role in implementing and making operational the decisions made by the University in response to COVID-19.
  • And, last but not least, to the senior leadership team, including President Ono and each member of the UBC Executive, as well as the teams that they lead, for your incredible leadership during this unprecedented crisis, your effective advocacy at all levels for UBC, its faculty, researchers, students and employees, your open and thoughtful engagement with the Senates and Board of Governors, your incredible work commitment (the full scope of which will probably never be fully known by us or anyone) and your adherence to the highest standards that have earned UBC its wonderful/global reputation and regard.

We would also like to acknowledge with profound gratitude our provincial government, particularly the Honourable Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (AEST) and her colleagues both in AEST and throughout the government, for securing and offering financial, mental health and other supports for students across BC’s post-secondary system, including the most vulnerable and those confronted by the greatest hardships, and for creating realistic pathways to post-secondary education and training and making it more affordable and accessible for BC students and families.  We also sincerely thank the federal government which has announced a number of initiatives to support university students and graduates, such as the suspension of repayments and accrual of interest for Canada Student Loans, the full subsidization of wages for Canada Summer Jobs work placements, and so on.

To all of the extraordinary members of UBC’s community, on both campuses and UBC’s distributed learning sites, you have our most sincere thanks, for all of the exemplary efforts you’ve made, and are continuing to make.  As a Board, we have attempted to keep track of what is happening at other universities, and could not be more proud of how UBC’s leadership, faculty, staff and students have responded to the pandemic.  We are genuinely grateful, and wish to acknowledge the unquestionably positive impact that you have had on UBC’s course of responding to the crisis, and the welfare of UBC’s people.

We acknowledge with terrific appreciation that UBC has been a leader in the national/global response to the pandemic, including ground-breaking work currently underway across all disciplines, including published research that has the potential as a possible future treatment for COVID-19 (see: UBC has also played a thought leadership role in the provincial and federal responses to COVID-19, and has been highly responsive to both provincial and federal requests for support with supplies, space and volunteers.  For their part, UBC’s clinical faculty have been, from the outset, on the front lines of the healthcare challenges, with no end yet in sight.

In monitoring and directing how UBC continues to respond to COVID-19, recognizing that this coronavirus presents long-term challenges, we will remain focused on adhering to the core values of the University, including (as President Ono has repeatedly highlighted) flexibility, empathy, patience, the wellbeing of our faculty, staff and students, working toward our core academic mission and ensuring the accessibility of a UBC education during challenging economic times. To everyone, thank you for your leadership and support in service of the University we all passionately support.

Sincerely yours, on behalf of UBC’s Board of Governors,

Michael J. Korenberg, Chair
UBC Board of Governors