Dr. Deb Saucier: Reflections on a Pandemic

President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Deb Saucier.

April 30, 2021 - 12:15am

If you had told me last April, as I sat in the room above the garage, that I would now be referring to it as ‘my office’ this April—I wouldn’t have believed you. Last April, I thought pivot was a move in basketball, this year—well, you know, you have the t-shirt. I have had to make decisions for VIU that I had not contemplated making, decisions that had to be made in the moment with imperfect information. What I have learned from this time only reinforces my core values, which is to always lead with kindness, resolve and the well-being of our students as our North Star.

In hindsight, I have to admit that history could have (should have?) told me that very few global pandemics last only a few months. Indeed, the pandemic is now at the ‘annoying neighbour who replaces his Sunday morning power-washing the deck activity with a chainsaw sculpture hobby’ stage (Don’t’ ask). The stage where you just want it to end. And like the smoky haze that accompanies gas-powered yard tools, this pandemic remains persistent, annoying, and frustrating. However, COVID will continue to affect us for some time to come. I know that we have all learned a lot from this, and I also know that, frankly, we are all tired. However, I believe that acknowledging common experiences brings us together – especially when the ways that we once connected remain unavailable.

We will bring these experiences forward with us as we work towards our new Future State. And, following the advice of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training and the Public Health Officer, we (along with all other public post-secondary institutions in BC) are planning for a significant return to campus in the fall. Our entire sector, including our unions, is engaged in developing new Go Forward Guidelines for a safe return to campus. We know that for our learners, this is a critical step in ensuring their future well-being.

We also know that we have the tools to do this successfully. We know a lot more than this time last year about how to keep ourselves and others safe. We know that we can safely venture out to buy groceries, be safe outdoors in our bubbles, and safely attend classes face-to-face (THANK YOU to those who have been doing so since last March—your innovation, resilience and fortitude sets an example for us all).

I look forward to seeing you all safely in the fall, and to re-engaging those critical and much needed social connections. We will come together soon to collaborate and learn together in a space of the energy, creativity and positivity among our colleagues and our community.

As I close, I would cite my still-relevant blog post from last year (Mar 2020), written as this whole thing got real:

Wash your hands. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to stop the spread of infection.

Here’s to soap, and please -- wash your hands.

Tags: In the Community

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