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The President

As I write this message in the summer of 2020, the world is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions are sick and tens of thousands have died. The global economy is on lockdown. York University has also been severely affected, with our courses and all non-required services moving to online and remote formats.

Through this sudden and jarring change, I have been so impressed with the strength and resilience of the York community. The examples are many, but include faculty who have quickly adapted their courses to new teaching models; staff who continue to provide critical services and support to community members, including approximately 600 students still living in residence; the alumni and donors who have been steadfast in their support of the University as they heed the call to help students in need; and the thousands of students who are persevering to complete their courses and lift up their peers. I am grateful to every one of them for their dedication as we manage this crisis together.

The health and well-being of our community are our first priority and have guided every decision that we have made as we respond to the pandemic. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable members of our community, which is why we launched the Student Relief Fund. This initiative allows our alumni and supporters to contribute to our emergency bursaries, which provide financial aid to our students.

The fight against COVID-19 is global, and the York community is embracing its role in the struggle. We have donated thousands of masks and other items of personal protective equipment (PPE) to local hospitals and made 1,500 laptops available to students, staff and faculty to facilitate learning and working from home. The University also created a new $250,000 internal research fund to support York researchers tackling the virus and its effects.

This contribution adds to the nearly $2.5 million awarded to 13 of our colleagues through the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) rapid research program, supporting their work on the health, economic and social impacts of the virus. This funding includes Professor Jianhong Wu, who is part of a national mathematics team working on multi-scale modelling to assist in the development of effective intervention and mitigation strategies. Our Dahdaleh Distinguished Chair in Global Governance & Legal Epidemiology, Steven Hoffman, convened nearly all the world’s international law and global health scholars to achieve a juridical consensus on what countries may legally do during infectious disease outbreaks. Students at the Schulich School of Business created a COVID-19 Predictive Dashboard, which will help policymakers and public health authorities make informed decisions as they co-ordinate responses to the pandemic. Rahim Bhimani, a design instructor in our School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design, created and distributed 300 face masks for front-line healthcare workers. These are a few of the many initiatives already being led by York students and experts, and I know many more projects will be launched in the days ahead.

I hope that, as you read this message, the world is emerging from the worst of the pandemic. Perhaps children are going back to school, businesses are reopening and some semblance of normalcy is returning to our lives. But even if we are not there yet, I know York will continue to play a leadership role in delivering high-quality higher education and winning the fight against COVID-19. If you would like to learn more about our contributions, please visit YU Better Together. You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @YorkUPresident or by email president@yorku.ca. Thank you all for your ongoing commitment to the University.  

photography by Mike Ford

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