Return to campus life a boon for Montreal

Amid the fourth wave of the pandemic, McGill remains vigilant and ready to pivot whenever necessary to ensure the health and safety of all, says Principal Suzanne Fortier

Montreal’s universities are marked by incredible talent and a capacity to tackle the greatest social challenges of our world. Our institutions are also key drivers in advancing the social and economic vitality of our city.

After persevering through the most difficult phases to date of the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec, Montreal’s universities — which welcome students and professors from across the globe — reopened for in-person teaching and research this September. The decision to return to in-person campus activities was made months ago. It followed careful deliberation and was premised on the view that the full potential of a university education can be best realized when we learn and work together. That is true even when physical proximity is subject to constraints designed to keep us safe.

When people reflect on the best moments of their university studies, they often mention serendipitous encounters with a professor or classmate on campus, striking up discussions that might have sparked an idea or a realization leading to a path of inquiry or discovery. Those moments can be transformative, and we are glad that they can recur on our campuses, even while we are diligent about campus safety related to COVID-19.

For many months, the McGill team worked assiduously to ensure a successful rentrée. This has been an around-the-clock job, requiring attention to all manner of details to ensure that we welcomed the return of our students, faculty and staff in safe settings.

As the fourth wave of COVID-19 rolls on, the pandemic continues to present new challenges. As part of the wider Montreal community, our university community must continue to be vigilant and focused on engaging in all the measures and behaviours needed to ensure the health and safety of all of us.

In Quebec, universities have been the beneficiaries of effective policies, notably the decisive and early adoption of a vaccination passport, that allows for enhanced protection of our campus spaces.

As we implement COVID-prevention measures on our campuses, and apply Quebec’s vaccination passport to our extracurricular activities, we remain vigilant. McGill and its sister universities have contingency plans ready to implement as required to keep our campuses safe. In short, as we have done multiple times in the recent past, our universities will pivot whenever necessary to prioritize the health and safety of our communities.

The return to campus life in Montreal is a boon for our city. We are delighted to have our students, faculty and staff back among us and to see the re-ignition of campus life. At the same time, working together, we commit to unwavering vigilance and preparedness, so that we may enjoy the richness of university life while retaining health and safety as a top priority.

This commentary first appeared in the Montreal Gazette.