Reflections on the pandemic, one year later

March 12, 2021

Dear members of the McGill community,

This Saturday will mark a full year since COVID-19 dramatically altered how we learn and work at McGill. Yesterday, March 11, the province of Québec held an official day of commemoration to honour the lives lost to the pandemic, reminding us of the fragility of human life and of the incredible efforts of our frontline workers, including McGill’s health care professionals.

During this time, I find myself reflecting on the extraordinary challenges of the last year and on how much our situation, both as a university and as people living in society, has evolved.

Looking back on what we have learned and accomplished, the word “collaboration” comes to mind time and again. From the very beginning, it was our ability to collaborate across the University that enabled us to adapt our operations rapidly, ensuring that our students completed their semester as planned. Since then, this collaborative spirit has continued to underpin our pandemic response, propelling us forward each day.

Over the last year, every member of our community has been called upon to work together in new ways. Professors have explored alternative approaches to teaching and conducting research with colleagues. Students have adapted to learning and working with their peers virtually. Staff members have developed and maintained the procedures and digital infrastructure required for remote operations. On our campuses and in our buildings, numerous people combined their efforts to implement new health and safety protocols, ensuring that key university functions could unfold safely without interruption. Our alumni and friends gave us support and uplifted our community. These are only a few examples of the countless contributions made by McGillians to adjust to the realities of the pandemic.

While there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions, our sense of community remained strong, as we leveraged technology to create new relationships, nurture existing ones and celebrate major milestones, such as convocation, together.

As much as the theme of collaboration emerges as a common thread, so too does the feeling of gratitude. In the face of great challenges, each of you continue to show remarkable dedication, adaptability and empathy. Thanks to you, our University has been able to continue fulfilling its mission, even under unprecedented circumstances.

Reflecting on the year ahead, transitioning back to in-person learning, while prioritizing the wellbeing of our community, will surely require further collective effort. It will also present new challenges. Yet, returning to the richness of an in-person campus experience, which we know cannot be replicated fully online, must be the way forward. As we embark on this path, knowing that we can count on the proven strength of our community inspires great confidence and optimism about our future.


Suzanne Fortier

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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