Eduvation Blog

Reconciliation, and Returning to Normal

Good morning, and happy Say Something Nice day!

In that spirit, I’m going to turn from yesterday’s roundup of rollercoaster pandemic news (“Pandemic Wind at our Backs?”) to the more optimistic CdnPSE announcements regarding plans for Fall 2021. (Or at least, we’ll START them today – Ontario will have to wait until tomorrow.)

But first, unfortunately, National Indigenous History Month in Canada begins today in sorrow, and it’s hard to say “something nice”…



Truth before Reconciliation

The scale of the residential schools tragedy across Canada is difficult to grasp, even 6 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. We know reconciliation remains a long way off, but this weekend we were also reminded that even the “truth” is still surfacing…


A National Shockwave of Grief

Yesterday, CdnPSE from coast to coast collectively paid its respects and shared the anguish of First Nations communities grieving the 215 young lives lost at the former Kamloops Residential School. Most institutions announced that they were lowering campus flags to half-staff for 215 hours, or the next 9 days. Many also observed 215 seconds of silence yesterday to remember the children who never returned home. MUN president Vianne Timmons called the new archaeological evidence “a stark reminder to us all of what Indigenous Peoples of this country know, and what the TRC tried to teach us: the residential school system was, and is, a source of tremendous suffering and trauma.”


PSE Repercussions

Faculty and researchers at Kamloops-based Thompson Rivers U share intensely in the national shock and grief, but also are at the epicentre of international media attention. One TRU law prof anticipates wrongful death lawsuits but not criminal charges. UBC reported that it is reviewing the honorary degree given to Bishop John O’Grady, one-time principal of the Kamloops Residential School, in 1986. President Santa Ono said in a statement that “the issues raised are deeply upsetting and we take them seriously. UBC’s Senate will be reviewing this matter immediately.”


“Our university’s vision calls us to be a place of belonging, as inspired by the Secwepemctsín word Kw’seltktnéws. Its meaning: we are all related and interconnected with nature, each other, and all things. From this inter-connectedness, let us share in the discovery of the hard truths of the past, of the harm caused by colonialism, and commit to healing and reconciliation for the future.”Brett Fairbairn, President & Vice-Chancellor, Thompson Rivers U



Indigenous Resilience

uRegina’s incoming AVP Indigenous Engagement, Lori Campbell, was saddened by the occasion of her inaugural statement, but wrote eloquently about the intergenerational trauma that saw 150,000+ children forced into residential schools from 1863-1996, in a program of “cultural genocide” which gave them the same odds of dying as for Canadian soldiers in World War II. She also shared the words of an elder, “Remember, we are more than our trauma, victimization, and pain. Our experiences and our stories are stories about Indigenous survival and the undeniable strength of our ancestors.”  uRegina



Fall Plans – Part 1

My last summary of CdnPSE announcements for Fall 2021 was 3 weeks ago, on May 10. (See “Dark Horses, Dark Times, Fall Forecasts” – or check out all my coverage of Fall 2021 plans in this Insider Recap.) Since then, provincial governments have weighed in with direction to PSE and with their economic reopening plans. There have been so many announcements that I’ll split it over 2 days…


A “Full Return” in BC

In that May 10 issue, I summarized the BC government’s preliminary “Go-Forward Guidelines” for PSE, and later that day PHO Bonnie Henry answered questions in a virtual town hall for PSE administrators, hosted by Thompson Rivers U. (Revised guidelines are expected to be released later this month.) She emphasized that the vaccines provide reason for great optimism, and that the past 15 months of health precautions have merely been “a blunt instrument” in order to minimize death and disease until a better solution arrived. “And now it has.” Most young adults in BC are expected to have both doses of vaccine by late summer. Institutional leaders have since announced in harmony that they have been told to prepare for a “full return” to on-campus learning this Fall – without the need for physical distancing or mandatory vaccination. Residences may return to near-full capacity. Masks may be required, depending on regional transmission rates, and testing and tracing will be used to manage future cases. Immunocompromised students or instructors should take additional precautions against COVID19, as they would against other viruses, but should not medically require special accommodations to participate in campus life. We do, however, need to be patient, open and compassionate in dealing with staff and students as we navigate back to “normal.”  YouTube


BCIT announced May 10 that it was actively planning for “a substantial increase of on-campus educational activity” this Fall. Except for fully online courses, “students should anticipate a significant level of on-campus activity and plan accordingly.” (40% of programs had already been brought back to campus for in-person learning.)  On May 21, AVP Academic Operations Jennifer Figner elaborated on the announcement in an update video, and reported that “things are looking better by the day” thanks to the vaccine rollout. Nonetheless, “many” programs will incorporate aspects of blended learning.  BCIT Commons


U Canada West is “preparing for a full return to on-campus learning” for its Fall term, starting in October. UCW


Vancouver Island U is “planning for a safe return to on-campus instruction,” with courses in 5 delivery modes ranging from F2F to asynchronous online. “Most” courses will be offered F2F, but VIU has always had some online and hybrid programming, and “expects these opportunities to be expanded” this Fall and beyond. Masks will likely be mandatory on campus, but vaccines will not. Double occupancy in residence might be possible, based on PHO direction.  VIU



More Cautious in Alberta?

Way back in March, Alberta’s Advanced Ed minister was encouraging all PSEs to prepare for a Fall term without restrictions on in-person learning, and yesterday I outlined Alberta’s remarkably aggressive “open for summer” plan, which could see all COVID19 restrictions lifted by Jul 1. By comparison, institutional announcements have been quite a bit more cautious…


NAIT is “planning for additional in-person learning and services” this Fall, while minimizing “disruption.” NAIT’s schools are still determining at a program level whether courses will be delivered as virtual or blended. (Enrolment with schedules will be available by early July.)  NAIT


Olds College is “planning for a fall 2021 return that will see classes predominantly on campus.”  Olds



Transitional Term in SK

Institutions in Saskatchewan sound even more cautious than their peers in Alberta, as of their most recent announcements. They clearly regard the Fall term as “transitional” before a return to more normal campus life in January…


Parkland & Cumberland Colleges are developing plans for a safe return to F2F learning for Fall. “While our plan is to get back to on-campus instruction, blended learning will continue to be a key part of our institutions, providing flexibility and fostering innovation as we serve learners across our region.”  Education News Canada


Saskatchewan Polytechnic plans to increase the number of students on campus this Fall, while continuing with hybrid delivery of programs. Currently ~35% of students are on campus at any one time, and come Fall “we are expecting… closer to 50-55%.” Fall will see a gradual transition towards full reopening of programs and services, likely with some controls over density and distancing.  Global


uSaskatchewan is “anticipating that most offerings will be in person and that most students will have in-person activity” this Fall, “but it will not be all.” UofS is still referring to the Fall term as “transitional,” and some classes and services will be offered remotely. Residences and food services are expected to open up, but masks will still be required and large gatherings avoided. Athletics will continue, but with less high-risk activity and fewer large events. “It’s going to feel much more normal than it has for the past year,” but campus life won’t return to “close to normal” until January.  Saskatoon Star-Phoenix  |  CBC



Back to Normal in Quebec

Quebec’s premier has been a vocal proponent of returning students of all ages to classrooms, and CEGEPs and universities have been feeling some pressure for months.


Bishop’s U internally announced a “full return to on-campus teaching and learning” back on Mar 19.


Concordia U has advised students they will “regularly need to come to campus throughout the fall term for both academic and non-academic activities,” although “some courses will be online and some will be in person.” (Most large classes will likely be online.)  Concordia


McGill U is “returning to in-person activities to the fullest extent possible” this Fall, and therefore requiring faculty, staff and students to be in Montreal so they can be onsite. “Some components of courses will harness the pedagogical benefits of online teaching,” particularly large lectures, but everyone should plan “for a more regular rhythm of on-campus academic activity by September.” “All instructors must be prepared to teach on campus” and staff will make “a progressive return to on-campus work… achieving a regular presence by September.” Approved staff may WFH one day per week.  McGill


“Despite continuing concerns, in Quebec, and at McGill, we have begun planning for a ‘new normal,’ with the hope we will come back better, not only as an institution and a Faculty, but as a society.”David Eidelman, Dean, McGill U Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



Atlantic Canada


College of the North Atlantic released its Fall 2021 Academic Plan on May 14, detailing delivery modes for each of 322 programs. By my count, 60% of programs will be “fully on campus,” 35% “fully online,” and just 5% “partially online.” Masks will be mandatory on all campuses, and students must adhere to PHO requirements.  CNA


Nova Scotia Community College is “preparing to return to more in-person learning, supports and services” this Fall, “while continuing with some planned online and blended delivery.”  Education News Canada



You may be asking, “what about Ontario?” Well, it’s late and I’ve got 55 more articles to digest in order to answer that question – so it will have to wait until tomorrow. (How’s that for managing my work/life balance?) My apologies to all those who, like me, would prefer to have it all neatly in a single issue!




It may be hard to believe, but if the optimistic forecasts for Fall come to pass, we may stop seeing drive-thru and drive-in convocations entirely! In that case, it would be a pity if I failed to share this peppy little video with you…


Drive-Thru Graduation

You may recall that Azusa Pacific U, a private Christian university in Azusa CA, has done well in many of my holiday greeting video roundups over the years. They typically blend great videography with engaging music and touching moments – and last week they released a 3-min video that brought those strengths to capturing their “ConGRADulations Drive-Thru.” You can’t help but smile along with these elated grads, feel some of the pride of parents and faculty, and leave the video feeling upbeat and excited for this cohort of graduating students. Really nice, guys!  YouTube



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

Stay safe and be well,


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