President Timmons, along with Memorial’s vice-presidents, hosted a university-wide Employee Town Hall on Aug. 27.
Before opening up the virtual event to questions from attendees, each senior leader made opening remarks.
To watch the live capture of the Q&A, view the video below; for a summary of each leader’s remarks, continue down the page.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor
Dr. Timmons talked of “Memorial’s footprint” in the province, mentioning just some of the campuses and facilities she visited this summer: Grenfell Campus, the Marine Institute’s Holyrood Marine Base and the Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre in Stephenville, as well as the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point and the Labrador Institute in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, now home to the School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies.
She also mentioned the strategic planning process now underway, the newly elected members of the Board of Regents and the ongoing Post-Secondary Education Review.
As well, Dr. Timmons pointed out that, with a new minister of Education and a new premier, government relations will be “critical” going forward as there have been no budget updates as of yet.
She also shared the great news that enrolment for the fall is steady.
Dr. Mark Abrahams, provost and vice-president (academic) pro tempore
Up next was Dr. Abrahams, who indicated that there has been much discussion about the winter semester and that the decision will be made in consultation with faculty, staff and students in the first half of the fall semester.
He also addressed the concern that some have had regarding the promotion and tenure process. Dr. Abrahams referred to the “extensive review” of faculty through the non-decision year process and tenure extension prior to consideration for promotion and tenure.
“Through this process, we have a good idea of faculty performance and should be able to see the impact of COVID-19, particularly those that have been struggling with child care and other personal responsibilities,” he said. “We do not intend recent events to negatively impact faculty progress, and will be especially sensitive to women and/or Black, Indigenous and people of colour that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”
Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research
Dr. Bose spoke of the COVID-19 Research Working Group to develop and oversee the implementation of a pan-university framework for resuming research activities that were suspended. The working group is managing the approach to returning to on-campus research spaces, fieldwork and face-to-face interactions with research participants. He also mentioned the Research Pandemic Planning Sub-committee that is providing guidance and feedback.
At this point, applications to resume research activities are being processed by the dean or school head and with the appropriate campus health and safety authority and that the process is working “very well.”
Dr. Bose also mentioned that the majority of staff in the Research portfolio are working remotely and that, moving forward, among several key strategic goals for him is to adapt the research ecosystem to the realities of living and working in a pandemic.
Glenn Blackwood, vice-president (Marine Institute)
Mr. Blackwood spoke about the challenges and successes the Marine Institute (MI) has faced since March of this year. Some of the successes include the MI Journey resource hub to connect with new students and their families in order to prepare for fall, including those enrolled in the institute’s second PhD program; the tender issued for construction of the Holyrood Marine Base’s last development phase; planning for the installation of the the subsea observatory in the Holyrood harbour; and the Ocean Aware project under the Oceans Supercluster, where MI researchers will develop an acoustic tagging program for flatfish and continue to advance models used in fish stock assessments.
Dr. Jeff Keshen, vice-president (Grenfell Campus)
Dr. Keshen highlighted Grenfell’s new graduate programs, including an online master’s of management and its first PhD in transdisciplinary sustainability, for which it has received five times the number of applications to spaces available.
He also mentioned Grenfell’s partnership with the College of the North Atlantic and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Limited to create an $8-million Innovation and Training Centre, and its collaboration with the City of Corner Brook’s that generated $25 million to re-imagine the long-closed Grenfell pool into a regional recreation and aquatic centre.
Dr. Keshen also made note of the fact that Grenfell is are funding e-learning hubs in St. George’s (near Stephenville) and Plum Point in the Great Northern Peninsula to enhance web-based service in areas known as having significant internet deficiencies.
Kent Decker, vice-president (administration and finance)
Mr. Decker spoke of how Memorial is continuing to work with a variety of stakeholders, including public health, to support the safety of the university community while also allowing for a continuation of services to the furthest extent possible.
Going forward, he indicated a number of priorities, one of which is a Remote Work Policy. Citing the fact that employees were sent home to work at a couple of days’ notice, Mr. Decker says it is now time “to play catch-up” – i.e., the appropriate policies and procedures are in place.
“Safety, sustainability, security, privacy, equity, diversity and inclusion, well-being . . . the list of considerations is long,” he said. “A draft has been prepared and broad consultations will take place this fall. I ask that you participate in the process.”
He also wanted to take the time to identify “wins.” He mentioned the emptier parking lots, reduced waste, lower emissions and productivity gains. He also asked the question that, as a community, hang on to the positives we have gained in this time, do we go back to the way things were or is a combination of the two a better idea?
Mr. Decker did point out some of the challenges, indicating that the areas of the university hit the hardest financially are the residences, the bookstore and University Centre vendors. The Works has partially reopened, he said, and is currently planning the remainder of the year. A decision about the Aquarena pool has yet to be made.
Mr. Decker’s last note was about IT security. “Countless criminals and malicious attacks are active online right now,” he said. “We cannot stress enough the need to remain extra vigilant when clicking links, opening attachments or responding to emails.”
His advice? If in doubt or if you think you may have accidentally disclosed login credentials, change your password and contact the IT Service Desk.
Before opening the town hall to the question and answer session, Dr. Timmons thanked the vice-presidents for their remarks and saying moving forward has been a communal effort.