Wednesday 27 January 2021

All staff and PGR email

Covid-19 update: moving forward together

Dear colleagues,

We continue to find ways to create consistency and certainty about the weeks and months ahead, often making difficult decisions now, in order to provide a sense of stability.

This is why we confirmed early on that classroom-based teaching will be online for the rest of the Spring Term and why we have also decided to host our graduation ceremonies online in August 2021.

We know these decisions disappoint many of our students and staff, but in both instances, we hope they set expectations and help us all to put plans in place that we can depend upon. Here’s what we shared with students today about the decision to keep our graduation celebrations online this summer.

It’s this balance we are constantly negotiating - of the need to adapt to the changing circumstances whilst also taking realistic and pragmatic decisions where we can ahead of time.

We know many students have returned to their accommodation on campus and elsewhere in York, even with in-person teaching limited to a small number of exempted programmes. We can anticipate many more will want to return if and when travel restrictions are eased. So, following the confirmation to the change in our Graduation arrangements, our Contingency Groups are now planning for our Summer Term.

We have just heard that the first earliest date that school education might re-commence at least for some pupils is Monday 8 March, and we can expect a similar indication for universities, too. But the precise conditions for resuming more in-person activity on campus are not clear, and as we know, Government guidance for universities is not always detailed or timely.

But even while we continue to face this uncertainty, there are some things that remain constant.

The pandemic, and this lockdown in particular, has set us really searching challenges, and we can be honest with each other that it is hard. All of us have our own, particular challenges to deal with, shaped by our own strengths and limitations, and they test and strain us.

But no-one should feel alone if they feel it’s an uphill struggle. We have a strong support network here at York. We need to keep talking to each other, keep supporting each other, and keep moving forward together. I was struck by something the writer John Lanchester said in an interview - ‘there was a before (Covid-19) and there will be an after’.

And in planning for that ‘after’, it is important to reflect that what has made this University stand out is our community’s care and compassion for each other. We can all see people doing their best for others, no matter how small the gesture. Those many small gestures in sum make a big difference, giving us a strong platform of collective commitment from which to recover and rebuild as we look ahead to the end of the Covid crisis.

Let me finish with a point which illustrates that collective commitment and the shared purpose it fosters. One of our zebra crossings, outside the Spring Lane Building on Campus West, had become worn out and in need of renewal. Students and staff from our LGBT forum put forward the idea of a new inclusive crossing.

Next time you’re on campus - and I hope that’s possible for all of us before too long - don’t forget to look out for it. Unveiled today, it features the colours of the Progress Pride Flag with the addition of black and brown stripes to recognise Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. It is a colourful reminder of how we can all respect, support - and inspire - each other.

Best wishes