McMaster University says all classes for Fall 2020 term to be online

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McMaster University announced Monday (May 25) that all classes for the Fall 2020 term will be online and, with few exceptions, students will not need to attend the West Hamilton campus.

"We want our students and everyone at the university to be as safe as possible, to have the support they need to be successful and to be confident that our decisions are based on public health advice," a letter signed by the university's president, David Farrar, and posted to Mac's website says.

"We believe that by making these decisions now we will create as much certainty as possible for students, faculty and staff at a time when it is impossible to predict how the pandemic will unfold."

Labs and other specialized facilities will also only be available on a very limited basis, Farrar writes, and educators and staff are asked to adapt their course content and delivery accordingly.

The letter explains that for first-year students, the university has developed Archway, an online support system that helps incoming students from the time they are accepted to virtually navigate the sometimes confusing new environment with the help of an Archway Coach and mentor until they enter their second year of studies.

Residences will be in short supply as well as the university prioritizes health and safety recommendations from Public Health so these spaces will be available on an 'exceptional basis.'

On top of enhancing their delivery of courses in the virtual sphere, the university says they are also investing in increased support for student well-being, mental health, technical assistance, and ensuring accessibility.

"We know there are very real concerns regarding the evolution of the pandemic in the fall term and what that could mean for the health and well-being of every member of the McMaster community," Farrar writes.

Farrar says that as the COVID-19 pandemic enters the next phase, the expectation is that "research activity that can only be done on campus [will] begin to accelerate."

He writes that researchers and labs will have to adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines and that university partners are working to accommodate these requirements.

"Groups across campus, including the University's operations committee, are preparing wayfinding and other building, lab and health and safety information and resources so we are well prepared to welcome back these researchers," he says in the letter.

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