Dear members of the King’s community,
As we move deeper into the holiday season, I take this moment to offer you my heartfelt best wishes. At the hot chocolate social we held on December 7 to mark the end of term, Dr. Daniel Brandes spoke of a rest that is not merely the cessation of work, or preparation for more work, but one which our work and our life prepare us to enjoy for its own sake. It is that kind of rest, combined with the warm and loving fellowship of family and friends, I wish for us all.
This past fall was both rewarding and challenging in many complex and contradictory ways. Our mixed emotions and the disconcerting conditions under which the term ended preclude unqualified celebration. Still, we had a full term living and learning together in our classrooms and around the Quad, the first since the fall of 2019. The term saw the return of Classics in the Quad, the Wardroom, Formal Meal, the Blue Devils in competition, and so much more. In the middle of a continuing and changing pandemic, this is an accomplishment of importance, good for mind, body and soul. We did it by the hard work of following the rules but more fundamentally, by supporting and protecting each other. In doing so, we built our shared capacity to move onwards in the face of whatever the future holds.
We will begin our winter term online. This is not because we think the whole of next term will be online but to enable our safe return to teaching and learning in our classrooms. It will give us time to better understand the Omicron wave and how it will unfold in our city and province before we gather again in our classrooms. As well, our purpose is to contribute, with Dalhousie, other universities and the people of Nova Scotia, to creating the conditions we need around us if we are to return safely to the classroom later in the term. Our determination to do so is indicated in our December 17 decision to welcome students back to residence on January 3, as planned, so that the social, academic and mental health benefits of living in community can be maintained and continued, even as we take a precautionary approach to the resumption of teaching and learning in classrooms.
We will get through this newest twist in Covid as we have all the others: together! With the rock-solid leadership of Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotians are moving into a new phase of living with Covid in which a so far milder but more transmissible variant requires us to strengthen our efforts to control infections as we allocate greater effort to protect those most likely to become ill as the number of infections increases, and the health care system we all depend upon.
At King’s, we are determined to work with and learn from Dr. Strang in solidarity with Nova Scotians to meet this challenge as we have met all the other challenges from the beginning of the pandemic. These next few weeks allow us, with the guidance of King’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee and our commitment to “clarity and concord” with Dalhousie, to prepare in-depth for living and learning together in this new manifestation of the virus. In the meantime, we have our past experience of working together online to guide us in what we are determined to make our temporary return to that mode of learning.
We’re now, once again, just days away from a new year with hopes it will mark a further turning point towards the end of the pandemic. Again, we’re wondering how to have certainty and hope in such uncertain times. There will be decisions to be made about safety and changes to the policies, rules, requirements and measures, both from public health and from inside King’s, all to create and ensure safety and peace of mind. At times this will be confusing and tiring.
Our fundamentals will continue to be vaccination (reinforced by boosting as it is made available); testing; self-assessment and precautionary self-isolation as indicated by self-assessment or testing; effective masking; distancing where practical; hygiene and cleaning; and ventilation. The other constant is that we will enact and live by our changing policies as the loving commitments we make to each other.
In a recent address, Dr. Strang spoke about Nova Scotians. He could as well have been speaking about all of us at King’s when he said: “Time and again, throughout this pandemic, Nova Scotians have shown up—to support one another, to care for one another, and to show love for one another. This support, caring and love is at the core of the holiday season. We can do this.”
I wish you a restful, meaningful and joyful holiday with those you love.
President and Vice-Chancellor