University remains open, classes cancelled, moving online

March 12, 2020 8:00 PM

Updated - March 12, 8 p.m.

Western President Alan Shepard released the following update tonight on the university’s response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.


The health and safety of our campus community is always my top priority.

I am writing to provide an important update regarding Western’s response to COVID-19.

Let me begin with the most important elements:

  • Western is cancelling classes from Friday, March 13 up-to and including Tuesday, March 17, 2020 to provide instructors and academic support staff adequate time to prepare to deliver course content in alternative ways. Any exams scheduled during this time period will be rescheduled.

  • Starting Wednesday, March 18 and for the remainder of the term, Western will be moving its classes online. Specific support will be offered to faculty members to help in this transition. We recognize that in some instances, portions of classes are already taught in a blended format. In other courses, this will require a substantial shift. Help will be available with that shift. We don’t have experience in transitioning at such a scale, and so we will all need to be patient with each other as we do so. Faculty members will hear from their deans regarding the discretionary decision making that may be necessary as courses are adjusted.

  • Although most courses are moving online as of Wednesday, it’s important to note that courses that are clinical placements will continue in their current mode. Clinical students will hear directly from their faculty deans about their placements.

  • Communication will be forthcoming from faculty deans for students with lab requirements.

  • To be clear, the University and university buildings remain open. Facilities such as the libraries, recreation centres, food services and health services all remain open. Research efforts will continue.

  • Western’s residences will remain open and operational.

  • Students wishing to go home and study remotely can do so.

  • For the time being, staff and faculty members should continue to report to work as usual. If you have extraordinary circumstances that require accommodation, please speak with your supervisor. With the closing of the Ontario’s publicly funded schools today, we recognize that may create specific challenges for some of our colleagues.

  • If you are ill, please stay home.

  • All discretionary events on campus currently scheduled until May 1, 2020 are being cancelled, postponed or offered virtually.

  • The University is working through contingency planning for final exams. More information will be shared in the coming days.

We know these decisions will cause some disruption, and we apologize for that. Over its 140+ years, Western has faced several moments of adversity, but we have not experienced anything quite like this before. We’re in uncharted territory.

The steps above are being taken out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to reduce risk. We want to do our part in the fight against COVID-19 at Western and in London, Middlesex, Ontario and indeed Canada.

More detailed information about these changes will be available for students, faculty, and staff on our main COVID-19 website. We will post FAQs and other important information. I urge you to have a look.

Finally, I want to thank everyone for your patience and understanding.

To the Western faculty and staff who have been working long hours the last several weeks to ensure we are prepared to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community:  thank you.  Your care for this community is extraordinary.

To our students. These are unusual times and we know the current situation may be causing stress and uncertainty. The university has a great number of services and programs to support you. The university attracts students who have extraordinary passion, deep commitment and intellectual brilliance, and your commitment to the Western community is something I’ve especially noticed in my first year here.

We all look forward to the day when we can resume our regular activities. Meanwhile, it is our resolve in such an extraordinary situation that will make us an even stronger university.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Shepard
President & Vice-Chancellor
Western University