Bonnie McElhinny at home

I’m writing to you with an update on New College from my home office. This has been an extraordinarily busy time. When economies are uncertain, people turn towards education. We had many more students than normal taking summer courses. At the moment, we anticipate a record number of students this fall. We are designing online orientation programs, mapping our public spaces and classroom for safety and physical distancing, ordering two masks for each faculty member, student, staff.

New College has supported students in residence throughout the summer, many of whom could not return home in the midst of this pandemic, and we will continue to have students this fall. Our residence staff have designed innovative programs to support these students. We are planning for courses that will be held both in-person and online, knowing that students want to be on campus where possible, but also that many can only do so when travel, finances and public health conditions permit, and knowing too that conditions may change.

We have weekly sessions at which we learn the new forms of pedagogy that this global pandemic requires. I have been thrilled, challenged, and excited to be in these electrifying conversations about teaching with colleagues here. I am inspired by the commitment and creativity of our instructors. I have a folder beside me with 5 articles, on new techniques for engaging students online. I’ll be teaching a course called “Living on the Water in Toronto” with 25 first year students—10 in-person, 15 online (some in other time zones). We are thinking about how to teach with heart, with kindness, and with care, at a moment when many students are facing unprecedented circumstances. Our registrars and academic advisors are receiving an unprecedented number of queries—many are working over-time, to respond to and reassure students.

This is also a moment when we are thinking about grief, and hope. New College has long been the home of African Studies, Caribbean Studies, Equity Studies; with Woodsworth, it supports students from Africa through the Mastercard Foundation. The Black Student’s Association has its base in the New College Student Centre. Black faculty, staff and students and allies have identified key sites for deepening and broadening discussions at the university, the college and with communities, on how to challenge anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. The hope of this moment lies, in part, in how clearly it diagnoses what we have done, have not yet done, and what we need to do. We will continue those conversations this year.

We appreciate the interest, and support, shown by many of you in supporting students through a tough moment, and thinking concretely about how to recognize and support Black and Indigenous students’ activism, community involvement, scholarship and achievements. We appreciate hearing from you, and how you are doing and what you are doing.

Principal Bonnie McElhinny, New College
July 2020