President’s Letter to the SJU Community
Our world has changed since I last wrote to you in December 2019.
Just a few months ago, the primary concern facing our students was securing the funds they needed to attend university in light of provincial cutbacks to student assistance programs. Fast forward three months and now they, along with everyone else around the world, are coming to grips with a reality defined by words such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “social distancing.”
The arrival of COVID-19 in Canada has resulted in unprecedented disruptions to our way of life. On Friday, March 13, 2020, Mary Ellen Cullen, the SJU Board Chair, announced that Dr. Peter Meehan will be our eighth President of St. Jerome’s University. In the midst of that joyous announcement, we were in the process of joining the University of Waterloo in making the decision to complete the Winter 2020 term through a remote delivery of our courses. By Monday, March 16th, our leadership team made the bold move to have all of our non-critical staff work from home. And by Saturday, March 21st, we closed the SJU campus to the public.
At present, the only people on the SJU campus are the 11 students remaining in residence and small teams of critical service staff, including food services, facilities, and residence staff. Learning has transitioned to remote course deliveries for the foreseeable future. Spring classes will go ahead but only through remote deliveries.
Spring is a time for renewal, for optimism, and for faith. For Catholics, Lent, which is related to an Old English word for spring, is a time when we look forward to Christ’s resurrection and new life. The current pandemic will almost certainly lead to many difficult days ahead. As a result, we may be challenged in our capacity to hope, and to focus on the new life that lies ahead. But I know our community well and I am confident that our resiliency and courage will overcome any tendency to lapse into despair. And I know that our faculty, staff, and leadership team here at SJU remain committed to supporting our students as they face a future that is less certain than it was just weeks ago.
Public health officials continue to advise us that “physical distancing” is the best action we can take to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I hope you will join us at SJU in observing this advice. I also hope you will join us in keeping in touch with friends, family, and loved ones through other means, including a telephone call or a virtual meeting on a videoconferencing platform such as FaceTime or Zoom. Remarkably, I just left our weekly SJU coffee break, which we held for the first time online. Even though we are physically apart, it is important we stay socially connected.
Finally, let me offer you an invitation. If you would like to talk about what we’re doing at St. Jerome’s (or any matter related to Catholic higher education), please feel free to email me at email@example.com to set up a time to chat. I’m always happy to talk about the good things going on at SJU … even in a time of coronavirus.
I wish you all the very best.
Scott Kline, PhD
Interim President and Vice Chancellor
St. Jerome's University