Eduvation Blog

April brings Outbreaks & Shutdowns

Good morning, and Happy National Tartan Day, if you observe it! (Apparently it’s a North American celebration of Scottish heritage that recognizes a declaration in 1320. I’m 25% Scottish but admit I had never heard of it before.) 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed a rejuvenating and/or restful Easter weekend, whether it was 2, 3 or 4 days long, and whether you celebrated a religious holiday or merely enjoyed what the Bunny (or Amazon) brought you.

I thought I might save myself some work by taking a 4-day hiatus, but of course the news kept coming and I had to revise this issue 3 times anyway! Over the weekend, Ontario campuses reported almost 80 more cases, and responded to the new province-wide “emergency brake shutdown” by closing some facilities. Faced with 3 more residence outbreaks, Western has moved most remaining classes and final exams online, and urged students to move out of residence and head home now.

But before I get into the heavy stuff, let me tidy up some loose ends from last week. I spent way too much of my time scanning and cataloging global higher ed engagement with April Fool’s Day, so here’s my summary for those interested in social media trends…



April Fools 2021

The April Foolery last Thursday was but a shadow of its pre-pandemic self. In 2019 I caught literally hundreds of higher ed jests on Apr 1, but despite spending half the day monitoring all my feeds, I wound up spotting just 19 in all. (Check out the full 2021 collection here.) Most were also far less elaborate than the joyful video examples I shared in my 10K anthology episodes, “Ten Kinds of April Foolery” and “Higher Ed Hijinks.” We saw a decided decrease in both quantity and quality of production…


Playing it Safe

Almost half of the joke announcements were for new academic or research programs, from Pond Diving at Canadore College and Exotic Pet Fashion Design at Vancouver Community College to CERN’s “Elevator-Inspired Fast-Fermion Endwise Linac collaboration” and UNB’s proposed research into “Spaceward Orphaning of Clothing through Kinetic Separation (SOCKS).” Points for timeliness go to uToronto Scarborough for jesting (à la Suez Canal) that Nasir’s hot dog wagon had turned sideways and blocked a “vital one-way pathway” on campus.


April Goes to the Dogs

Perhaps it’s no surprise after a year of pandemic puppies, but even more of the jests revolved around dogs, cats, and other animals. There’s a clear trend toward undergraduate and graduate programs for dogs, from uCanWest’s “Master of Dog Activities” and Cape Breton U’s degree in “Early Puppyhood Education” to uWindsor’s revolutionary Anthrozoology program for dogs, and uTennessee at Martin’s “BSc in Obedience Studies.” Yukon U announced a renewable energy breakthrough, the “Pooch-E” dog leash.


…and Other Animals

Although dogs took the day, other animals did get in on some of the fun. Georgian College Library announced a “free pet chicken with all academic success services.” uToronto Libraries launched “curbside cat pickup service.” And let’s not forget VCC’s “Exotic Pet Fashion Design” certificate, complete with photos of lizard, groundhog, hedgehog and chicken decked out for the fashion runways. Northern College tweeted that a moose was on the loose on campus, only to clarify (at 11:57am) that it was just the college mascot. And the McMaster Marauders unveiled a credible mascot/logo change, to the “McMaster Sea Turtles.”


Repurposing Campus Space

Clearly many higher ed jesters were inspired by the emptiness of their campuses to invoke the plausibility of infrastructure changes in response. Canadore College announced a new program in Pond Diving, and “a series of permanent high-rise diving boards” to be erected around the central pond (with some structural resemblance to Canadore’s logo, tbh). U Fraser Valley announced that they would be converting the campus green to arable land for a new research centre, the “Food Opportunity & Operational Land” centre (FOOL). And College of New Caledonia unveiled a tubular “waterslide” in its main lobby as part of the new “Slide into Your Future” campaign.


Safely Avoiding Public Health

Canadian Mennonite U joked about a new “indoor/outdoor shoes strategy” that felt just a little bit too credible as a public health requirement, but otherwise institutions quite naturally avoided treading anywhere close to the pandemic experience, or the anxieties their students and staff have faced for more than a year now. uAlberta was a bit of a party-pooper, in fact, pointing out that Apr 1 is “the most notorious misinformation day of the year,” and sharing a short video by Tim Caulfield. uWaterloo Arts proposed doing good instead of pulling pranks, by donating to “April Foods Day.”


Best of Show

With just 18 entrants, it’s a bit much to award “best in show” to anyone, but Southern Connecticut State U’s 2-min video announcing a new “School of Metal” (music for headbangers) was definitely the only entry that even came close to higher ed’s pre-pandemic April Fools extravagance. (It’s reminiscent of Berklee College of Music’s magnificent 2015 video introducing the kazoo as a principal instrument, still one of my all-time favourites.) The folks at SAIT deserve honourable mention too, for their 2-min video reporting that their “Living Building” had actually come to life. (I think it was an effort by journalism students, actually.)


It’s still hard to tell whether “Higher Ed Hijinks” will return with more enthusiasm and joy on Apr 1 2022, or if in fact we’re witnessing the gradual extinction of the genre in the wake of a pandemic that has robbed us all of our sense of humour…



Pandemic Précis

Of course, since my last update Thursday, there have been some significant COVID19 developments affecting the trajectory of campus plans…



1 Million Milestone

On Saturday, Canada surpassed 1M confirmed cases of COVID19 since its first case 14 months ago. (There are currently >57,000 active cases across the country.) While I made the point months ago that “excess deaths” were a better indicator of COVID19 fatalities than the actual reported numbers, uToronto’s Tara Moriarty has now done the math: Canada may have undercounted by some 3,000 deaths. On the brighter side, about 5.6M Canadians have received at least 1 dose of COVID19 vaccine (as of Saturday). Canada had identified 11,652 variant cases (as of Thursday), almost all the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant – and their spread was being fuelled particularly by younger Canadians aged 20-39. Hospital ICUs were nearing capacity in Ontario and other regions.


More Lockdowns

Italy imposed a 3-day nationwide lockdown this weekend to deter Easter travel and gatherings, complete with police roadblocks. France has ordered a third national lockdown for the next 4 weeks, with primary schools closed for the next 3 weeks. (The economic impact on businesses is estimated at $13B.) Quebec has extended the lockdown to 5 more regions as of last night. As predicted last week, Ontario premier Doug Ford imposed an “emergency brake shutdown” effective Saturday night, as the province reported 3,000+ new infections a day, and almost 1,000 VOCs. (Hot spots include Toronto, Peel, York, Ottawa, Hamilton, and London.) Unlike previous lockdowns, however, schools will stay open and both essential and non-essential retailers can open with capacity limits of 25% or more. (Although now 20 Toronto schools are being closed as of this morning due to outbreaks.) And while hardly a lockdown, at least Alberta backpedalled on loosening restrictions as it continues to experience a surge in new cases and hospitalizations. (Of course, premier Jason Kenney blamed Ottawa for putting Canada “at the back of the line for buying vaccines.”)


“Going into the Easter long weekend I had hoped to be able to tell you that we had turned a corner in our fight against COVID19… Unfortunately we are not in that situation today.”Jason Kenney, premier of Alberta



Americans Hit the Skies

Sadly, the US Transportation Safety Administration reported screening >1.58M people at American airports on Good Friday, the highest recorded number since the pandemic began. The US CDC advised last week that people who are fully inoculated for COVID19 are permitted to travel domestically or internationally without the need to self-quarantine.  Newsweek


Vaccine Trials for Kids

Pfizer reports that clinical trial results show its vaccine is safe and effective in 12-15-year-olds – meaning that it may become the first shot approved for adolescents. (It is already approved for people as young as 16.) Moderna is currently testing its vaccine in children aged 6 mos to 12 yrs.  Reuters


Mandatory Vaccinations

Last week, Italy made COVID19 vaccination mandatory for all health workers, after hospital outbreaks where staff refused the shot. And while there have still been no CdnPSE announcements, more US colleges are announcing plans to require vaccination of all students before they can return to campus this fall. (I previously mentioned Rutgers and Notre Dame.) Since last week, Roger Williams U (RI) announced the vaccine requirement (with some exceptions for medical or religious reasons).

Cornell U (NY) announced on Friday that students will need to be vaccinated to return to its campuses, and that those who return without one will be vaccinated as soon after their arrival as possible. Nova Southeastern U (FL) has gone even further, mandating that all students and employees must be fully vaccinated by Aug 1. (NSU plans to return to F2F classes and increase athletics and extracurriculars on campus.)


While most institutions are still quiet on the matter, some theorize that they might make vaccination mandatory for participation in certain activities, or for living in residence, rather than for attending classes at all. 



COVID on Campus

Since last Thursday, there have also been 80 more cases of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs. (See my master spreadsheet for a running tally of 2,000+ cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)


Brock U reports that the residence outbreak affected 45 students (up from 31 I last reported). 31 have recovered, and 47 remain in isolation.  Brock News


uCalgary has reported 6 cases of COVID19 on campus since my last note on Jan 29.  uCalgary


Cambrian College reported a confirmed case at the Barrydowne campus last Thursday. “This individual is associated with Cambrian Student Residence.”  Cambrian


Carleton U has added 2 cases to its campus outbreak, as of Mar 31. All cases in residence are reportedly students in Prescott House.  The Charlatan


Durham College reported 3 unrelated cases of COVID19 at the Oshawa and Whitby campuses on Apr 1, and another 3 unrelated cases at the Whitby campus Apr 5.   DC  |  DC  |  DC


Ryerson U reports a “suspected outbreak” in the Pitman Residence, and “monitoring” in the Daphne Cockwell Complex residence and the International Living/Learning Centre. (No details were provided.) Ryerson also reported that 2 external contractors (later identified as cleaners) working in the residences had tested positive, and 2 others were close contacts.  Ryerson


Trent U has a new outbreak, declared Saturday, in its Champlain College Annex, with 3 confirmed cases. All residents in the Annex are now under PHO-ordered self-isolation.  Global


uVictoria notified students in its Sir Arthur Currie residence that there was “a COVID19 exposure” in their building Mar 24-29, but shared no other details “for privacy reasons.” Students expressed their frustration and anxiety by commenting on a uVic Instagram post promoting a careers workshop, which asked “Feeling anxious about your future?” (Many CdnPSEs and PHOs have limited information to the bare essentials, although Island Health seems to say that they only post public exposures on the website “when we have been unable to reach or identify all individuals potentially exposed.”)  The Martlet


uWaterloo reported 2 more cases connected to the outbreak in campus residences on Apr 1, bringing the total to 29. UW  CBC reported 5 more cases Monday, although uncertainty whether the total is 34 or 37 cases connected to the residence outbreak.  CBC


Wilfrid Laurier U reports 6 more cases on campus since I last reported.  WLU


uWindsor confirmed 1 asymptomatic case of a COVID19 VOC in its Alumni Hall residence last week, after the “modified quarantine” imposed due to a wastewater screening result.  CTV


3 more Outbreaks at Western

Western U gave students the worst April Fools’ Day news – and it wasn’t a joke. A new, 5th residence outbreak was declared Thursday at Medway-Sydenham Hall, with 8 students testing positive. The outbreak affecting Facilities Management staff rose to 13 cases. In the face of multiple outbreaks, rising VOCs, and the provincial shutdown, Western announced that most remaining in-person classes and final exams were moving online, and urged students living in residence to consider moving out. (Prorated refunds were offered until Apr 11.) The students’ union closed its operations and services.   CBC  |  CTV  |  Global  |  London Free Press  Western News  |

Then on Friday, Western reported its 6th residence outbreak (and 5th active one) at Delaware Hall, where 6 more students tested positive, 2 weeks after St Patrick’s Day parties took place. (2 Western students have since been fined a minimum $10,000 each for hosting illegal gatherings.) More than half the recent cases in London are young people aged 18-22, who accounted for 132 cases in 2 days.  CTV

And then yesterday, Western U reported its 6th active residence outbreak, with 6 more students testing positive in Essex Hall – just 6 days after its previous outbreak was declared resolved!  CBC  |  CTV

By my count, that brings Western’s reported total to 226 cases since Sept (not counting 166 cases related to University Hospital.) You may recall, back in July 2020, that I was alarmed by Western’s announced intention to fill residences to 80% capacity, when no other CdnPSE announced anything more than 50%.


“For people who have acted recklessly and gathered repeatedly with people outside your household: we care about you and we are worried about your wellbeing. However, know that you’ve let us all down badly. Your behaviour risks your health and your education, and it needs to stop, now.”Feridun Hamdullahpur, president, uWaterloo



Ontario Shutdown

With Ontario’s announcement of a 28-day province-wide “emergency-brake shutdown” starting Apr 3, many institutions scrambled to clarify its implications for their operations. Most indicated little change to academic delivery or research activities, while others indicated changes to campus services…


Brock U announced that the remainder of Winter term classes would be held online, and all final exams would be held in virtual format. Athletic facilities and common areas are temporarily closed.  Brock


Carleton U announced it was closing all athletics facilities. Bookstore capacity will be reduced, and curbside pickup will be available at the store and the library. Campus dining will operate as takeout only.  Carleton


Durham College announced that “approved in-person learning activities… will transition to meet the additional restrictions as required.” Residences remain open, but athletics facilities will close, and the campus library will operate at 25% capacity.  DC


uGuelph announced that some F2F courses and exams would be affected, that supervisor approval will be required for staff or faculty coming to campus, the athletics centre will be closed, and the library will provide curbside pickup and some remote services.  Guelph


Ontario Tech announced its “campus buildings to close for at least 4 weeks,” except for students and employees with “previously approved in-person classes” or “on-campus essential services.” The campus library will be limited to 25% capacity.  ONTech


uWaterloo reported that some non-essential F2F instruction would need to pivot online for the remaining 8 days of the winter term. Additional security and shared space safety measures were already imposed in residence due to the current outbreak. Food services will be takeout or delivery only, and athletics facilities and library study spaces are closed.  UW




If you still haven’t seen my previous April Fool episodes of Ten with Ken, of course you should start by watching those: “Ten Kinds of April Foolery” and “Higher Ed Hijinks.” But assuming you’re all caught up and just want to watch one thing from the 2021 crop, it should be this…


Headbanging School of Metal

Southern Connecticut State U put out a pretty funny 2-min video on April 1 to announce their new “School of Metal,” based on “swelling demand from headbangers everywhere.” Courses include “the elements of scream,” “head-banging 101,” and “looking tough.” (I especially appreciate the metal remix of Celine Dion’s “My Heart will Go On.”) As I said above, this was the only entry that even came close to pre-pandemic efforts. Nice!  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading! Please drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world!

There were plenty of other developments over the long weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at more announcements for Fall 2021 and mandatory vaccinations, and new developments in the Laurentian U insolvency.

Meanwhile, I hope your week is off to a great start! Stay safe and be well,


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