I write to share updates as communicated this past week to our students, faculty and staff pertaining to our ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Information continues to evolve rapidly; each day fresh news adds to or eclipses messages of the day before. On Friday, King’s and Dalhousie jointly suspended classes, announcing a move to online program delivery starting next week. Both universities asked their residence students who could leave to depart as soon as possible and within days, in coordination with Dalhousie, we began closing King’s facilities, such as the library and gym. We have taken measures to soften the financial consequences of these events for our students, by quickly creating a special bursary program and by offering payment for some of the hours of work our student employees have lost or will lose due to these events. If you have ever wondered whether your annual fund gift makes a difference, I can tell you it certainly does. We are anticipating many of our prospective and returning students will face significant difficulties financing their coming year of education as summer employment opportunities evaporate.
Our response to the pandemic continues. When King’s and Dalhousie suspended classes last week, there were no reported cases of the virus in Nova Scotia; there are now more than 10 with a growing number of cases reported each day. So, we are taking measures to further emphasize the importance of social distancing among students still in residence and to encourage out-of-province day students to make a considered decision about whether to remain in Halifax. We are working to ensure we have arrangements in place for making sure residence students who cannot go home, including some of the NSCAD and Dalhousie students who live with us and some international students from all three universities, are housed and cared for in the longer term as compassionately and safely as is possible. We have also made arrangements to allow virtually all of our staff to work from home and our faculty is doing the same.
In these extraordinary circumstances, unprecedented in the modern life of the College and of our country, our students, faculty and staff have responded with solidarity and the deep concern for each other and our fellow citizens that is characteristic of King’s. I am deeply grateful for the support the academic and administrative leadership of the College has received from our community, as well as to all of our colleagues at Dalhousie for giving tangible meaning at this difficult time to the association between Dalhousie and King’s. I am full of admiration for everyone around me as we continue to work to keep pace with this situation and to do our part in Nova Scotia’s fight against this horrible virus and the threat it poses to our vulnerable fellow-citizens.
Our students have been amazing in facing up to the situation and in offering support to each other, their professors and the College. They have done so with heavy hearts – as one FYP student told me, “I have a broken heart Bill.” Their time together has been suddenly truncated. Concerts, plays and end-of-term events have been cancelled, and we have even had to accept that Encaenia will not be able to proceed as scheduled on May 29. And yet, our students have rallied with forbearance and good cheer, making us all feel better about the days ahead.
During this time, we have also been thinking of you, our extended family of alumni and friends. We are all too aware that everyone is being impacted and none of us are immune to the daily concern for the health of our families, friends and co-workers and the impact on our finances and futures. I am especially mindful that many of you are self-employed, work in service sectors, the performing arts, or other occupations that are likely to be hit hard by all the closures happening, and that others of you are in healthcare or the other front line professions serving us all. The hope, of course, is that we will as individuals and as communities show ourselves equal to the challenge in our resolve to live for each other rather than for ourselves, drawing on the spirit living deeply in the character of everyone who belongs to King’s.
With that in mind, Dr. Neil Robertson thought we might all enjoy listening, in the hours of our separation from each other and the world outside our homes, to a lecture by the late Dr. Angus Johnston originally taped for Halifax Humanities. Neil suggests, “It may be a little dry taken from its context in the series, but I think will be welcome by many alumni.” With that, I trust “Shakespeare’s Tempest: A sea-change to the modern soul” (see below) brings you a modicum of comfort and King’s inspiration through these dark times.
Please take care of yourselves, each other and those around you, knowing that you are in the hearts of all us here at King’s.
President and Vice-Chancellor