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Letter from the President: Looking to January 2021

November 20, 2020

To all members of the University of Toronto community:

I am writing to let you know about a very important change in the start date for winter term classes in January – a change that will affect most members of the University community.

It’s prompted by the fact that we’ve all been under an extraordinary amount of stress for months now, because of the burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire leadership team across our three campuses cares deeply about the wellness of each and every one of you. We want to make sure that you’re able to rest and recharge, and to make the most of the upcoming holiday break.

To that end, we have decided the following:

  • For first-entry undergraduate divisions, classes for the winter term will begin on Monday, January 11, a week later than originally planned.
  • For graduate and professional programs, the start date for winter term classes will vary. In some programs, the start date will shift to Monday, January 11. However, in other programs it will be necessary to keep to the original schedule and resume classes on Monday, January 4 – this is to ensure that students in these programs can complete their courses in a timely manner as planned.
  • The University will be officially closed as of December 23, and will reopen on January 4 as originally planned. The shift of the start date for classes involves enormous administrative complexities, meaning that our staff-appointed employees will still be needed to return to work on Monday, January 4. To support their wellness, we are granting these employees three additional paid days off, to be taken as a block or individually, with approval from their managers as per standard procedures, anytime between today and August 31, 2021.
  • For more details relevant to your particular circumstances, information for students will be available later today through the UTogether website. Faculty members, librarians and staff members should consult the Human Resources & Equity site.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer a word of encouragement to all of you. First, to our students: you deserve to be very proud of your accomplishments in this uniquely challenging year. We appreciate how difficult it has been. Staff and faculty members across the University have been working very hard to provide the best possible learning environment and the best possible experience in all aspects of student life under the current circumstances. We are also continuing to implement the redesign of student mental health services that we announced this past January. While we have made considerable progress on that front, the work is continuing, and completing the full redesign remains a top priority. We are committed to doing everything we can to support your wellness and academic success, as we make our way together through this historic time.

To our faculty members, librarians, teaching assistants, administrative staff, tradespeople, and student services providers: you have gone above and beyond to ensure that the University of Toronto continues to fulfill its academic mission. As a result, we are delivering a high-quality online learning experience. Our research and innovation output remains robust. We are making many important contributions to the fight against the pandemic, locally, nationally and globally. And in all our operations, we are protecting the health and safety of the U of T community. At the same time, many of us have had to meet major new demands at home, from managing the schooling needs of our children to caring for our elderly parents. Others among us are experiencing isolation and mental health challenges caused or exacerbated by the pandemic. On behalf of the University’s entire senior leadership team, I want to say that your dedication is noticed and very much appreciated.

As we continue through this challenging time, let’s all continue to be mindful of those around us, as well as ourselves. If we’re concerned that someone may be struggling, let’s ask how they’re doing and listen to what they have to say. As we have seen in so many ways throughout the year, kindness and empathy can be incredibly powerful, even transformative. And if we ourselves are struggling, let’s not hesitate to reach out and ask for help. (Links to the various services available through the University are provided below.)

The pandemic will be with us for some time, and we will continue to face periods of heightened stress and discouragement. But the U of T community has shown itself to be wonderfully adaptable and resilient. The spirit of dedication and collaboration that has brought us this far will continue to carry us forward. And while we appreciate the enormous challenges in developing and delivering a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we can nonetheless take heart in the very promising recent news on that crucial front.

Thank you all for your many contributions and your inspiring example. I wish you a safe, healthy and successful remainder to the term.


Meric S. Gertler

Supports for students:
St. George, Health and Wellness Centre
UTSC, Health and Wellness Centre
UTM, Health & Counselling Centre
My SSP (support available 24/7/365)
Good2Talk Student Helpline

Supports for staff and faculty:
Employee and Family Assistance Program (support available 24/7/365)