StFX adapts to new realities

ANTIGONISH: In a matter of days, a virus has completely changed the landscape of the world in the blink of an eye, including post-secondary institutions like StFX University.

With a provincial State of Emergency declared and the increased safety measures that come with it, including limitations on non-essential travel throughout the province and the border between Canada and the United States being closed, the president of StFX says the university will always be there for their students.

“As restrictions continue to tighten, we will continue to assist students who are not able to travel home,” Kevin Wamsley said. “We all must do our part to not only protect our own health, but to ensure we do not overwhelm the healthcare system in the province.”

In a letter to the campus community dated March 18, the university’s president said it’s been four days since the StFX campus started adapting to their new reality and that all students, faculty, and staff were presented with significant and unprecedented challenges, all within a very compressed timeframe.

“The impact related to COVID-19 continues to evolve at a rapid pace with decisions being made on an hour-by-hour basis as new information materializes,” Wamsley said. “It’s said that people come together during times of adversity and the StFX community has been proving this to be true.”

He suggested the level of collaboration, creativity, thoughtfulness, understanding and patience is quite simply something to be acknowledged and proud of; and while they work out operational details the community continues to be resilient.

“With assistance from StFX’s IT staff, our faculty are discovering new opportunities to ensure the term will continue.”

After cancelling in-person classes from March 16–20, StFX’s academic community has transitioned their academic delivery to an on-line model, which resumed regular classes on March 23.

The vast majority of students living in residence have already left campus or are in the final process of moving, and those who can’t return home for whatever reason and remain in residence are heeding the call to practice social distancing.

StFX is taking actions to minimize the risk to the campus community by: suspending in-person classes including eliminating face-to-face examinations; encouraging students to return home; and by closing the campus to the general public.

Wamsley said it has been a very stressful time for students and the pandemic has created many uncertainties.

“This is definitely not how any of us envisioned the end of what has been a very successful academic year,” he said. “With travel and health protocols rapidly evolving, I believe that home is the best place for you to be.”

Wamsley indicated these challenges are new to everyone – especially him.

Having just returned from the United States last Wednesday, he will be under self-monitoring, a form of self-isolation for 14-days.

“Something I never imagined would happen,” he said. “I know that, particularly for senior students, you are leaving campus with a sense of sadness for such an abrupt and unforeseen ending to an otherwise wonderful experience at StFX.”

Wamsley expressed to the senior students it was his wish to shake hands with every one of them as they crossed the stage at Convocation in May, however as COVID-19 continues to change living and working environments, StFX must suspend the Convocation ceremonies.

“We just cannot hold such a large gathering in a public space without posing significant health risks to all participants,” he said. “We will be working diligently to find alternative plans for Convocation in the coming weeks and we will keep you updated on these plans.”

Despite losing out on one tradition to the graduation experience, Wamsley suggested in the meantime he hopes they will remember and cherish the X-Ring celebration in December – as no other university students have the opportunity for this experience of a lifetime.

“It is truly unique to the StFX community.”

For more on the pandemic, check out information from the Government of Canada at: https://canada.ca/coronavirus.