The global COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented upheaval and anxiety for people in all corners of the world, and university students are no exception. In the wake of this crisis, StFX has established Our StFX: Student Emergency Fund to help provide financial assistance for StFX students who are struggling. The fund’s aim is to address the most urgent cases of students who have nowhere else to turn and who are at risk of not achieving their goal of a StFX degree.
“Undoubtedly, one of the most challenging aspects of this uncertain time is the financial strain many are now feeling. Indeed, what we’re hearing so far confirms that this is nothing short of a full-blown financial crisis for many StFX students,” says StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley.
“The current economic situation means that many – if not most – of the summer and part-time jobs our students rely on are in doubt. Already, some students have said they won’t have enough money to return to StFX next year. Others fear they won’t be able to pay their bills or put food on their table, a concern that is especially real for students with young families of their own. The need is urgent and critical.
“That’s why we are launching the Our StFX: Student Emergency Fund to provide crisis financial support for students experiencing hardship. No matter the circumstances, no student should have to go without basic necessities or face heartbreaking decisions about their education. With your support, we will work to make sure no student is in this position.”
Times are tough for many others too, Dr. Wamsley says, and StFX recognizes the desire to help may outweigh the ability. “This is perfectly understandable. However, for those who are in a position to provide support, we hope your response will be to do so.”
“The Students' Union is pleased to support the launch of the StFX Student Emergency Fund. This fund will offer another vehicle for students to access the financial support they need in these difficult circumstances,” says Students’ Union president Cecil VanBuskirk.
“One avenue that is already available to students is The Students' Union Emergency Grant program, but it is struggling to keep up with the volume of applicants. The Students' Union is very thankful to Dr. Wamsley, and the StFX administration, for helping to further decrease the stress students are facing through the launch of this fund, so that they can focus on finishing their academic term but most importantly, taking care of themselves.”
Students may be considered for funding awards for situations that are time sensitive, arise outside of the regular bursary program eligibility dates, are unforeseen, and cannot be addressed by any other means.
To apply, students can go online to access the Student Emergency Fund Application Form available here. Support for completing the application is available by contacting the StFX Financial Aid Office or any campus support office.
To be eligible for an award, a student must be academically eligible; have documented financial need in accordance with the Financial Aid Office needs assessment guidelines; not be able to apply for the regular StFX General or Limited bursary programs; and demonstrate commitment to doing all they can to manage and contribute to their finances, including accessing government student loan or bank line of credit, and other funding programs as applicable.
This fund may not normally be used to address outstanding student account balances or past debt and is not intended to replace lost wages when students are eligible for aid, such as government run programs, to support the loss of part time and summer wages.
A StFX psychology professor wants to know how you’re doing in the face of COVID-19.
Dr. Karen Blair of StFX, in partnership with Dr. Debby Herbenick from Indiana University, has launched the COVID-19 Interpersonal Coping Daily Diary Study.
“We are interested in learning more about how people are coping, mentally, physically, relationally, during this unique time period as we collectively face the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Blair says.
The study involves an initial intake survey that takes 20-30 minutes to complete. Dr. Blair says participants can opt to just complete this part of the survey, or at the end of the survey they have the option to continue to daily diary study. Researchers will send participants an email or text each night with a link to complete an ‘end of day’ survey that will take about five to minutes.
“We are hoping participants will continue answering for at least two weeks, but they can participate for up to four weeks,” Dr. Blair says.
“At the end of the study, participants will get to keep a copy of their diary, as a record of their thoughts, experiences, and feelings during this time.”
The study is open to anyone over the age of 18 who can access an online survey. The surveys are mobile-friendly and will work on a phone, tablet or computer.
“We’d like to capture as many diverse experiences as possible - even though we are all facing the same pandemic, we will each have our own unique challenges to face,” Dr. Blair says.
“We are particularly interested in hearing from students so that we can understand more about how this upheaval in their lives has impacted them, whether they’ve had to remain in town alone or travel home unexpectedly. For fourth year students, in particular, this abrupt end to their time at university may be very challenging and come with a wide array of emotions and we’d like to know more about how this event has impacted their well-being.”
Dr. Blair says response to the study has been very strong so far just through word of mouth. “I think people are looking for things to do and also outlets where they can record their thoughts.”
Dear StFX Students,
Many of you have contacted the University, concerned about the remainder of the term, particularly your grades for second term. Our academic team, consisting of the Academic Vice-President & Provost, Dr. Tim Hynes, the Dean of Arts, Dr. Karen Brebner, Dean of Science, Dr. Dan Belliveau, Dean of Business, Dr. Todd Boyle, and the Dean of Education, Dr. Jeff Orr has been carefully deliberating, with the assistance of the Department Chairs and Program Coordinators. They are ensuring that all students are treated fairly in these very unusual circumstances. Please know that every student has different needs and challenges. We must have solutions to the academic problems created by the alteration of classes and exams that work for everyone.
Consistent with the majority of universities across Canada, we are offering options for second term grades. Students may select the option for each course that works best:
1. traditional numeric grading for each 3-credit, second term course
2. if choosing Pass/Fail, you must opt in:
3. Deadline to drop any second term, 3-credit course (excluding BEd) is:
Through these options, we are aiming for maximum flexibility for the maximum number of students.
Why are we not “freezing” grades?
Faculty members and students have made significant investments of time and effort in adapting to the last few weeks of the semester in these extraordinary circumstances. When in-person classes were suspended, we asked instructors to determine how best to continue to assess learning and to support student success during these unprecedented times. We asked Faculty members to consider many factors, including whether it is appropriate to reduce the number of assignments left in the course, whether to extend deadlines for completing coursework, whether to hold a final exam or, instead, provide an alternate method for final assessment, and whether to consider appropriate re-weighting of grades for courses.
Students, in turn, have been working diligently to complete their work, to attend classes, and to prepare for course completion. Instructors and members of the administration do not feel that this effort - on your part, or theirs - should be written off and, as mentioned above, have developed solutions providing various options related to grades for the term. Please note that this decision to continue with the second term also considered the fact that instructors are accommodating individual student needs in different circumstances, and that a one-size-fits-all option is not appropriate. For most courses, the percentage of work completed by the time face-to-face instruction was suspended was too low to be considered a fair assessment of student learning. To freeze grades would compromise the academic integrity of the learning experience.
Grades will help students to assess their progress and this is helpful for employers and other post-graduate and professional programs of study that they may be considering. Keep in mind that virtually all universities have been forced to make accommodations in their own terms, courses, and academic policies due to the impact of COVID-19. The vast majority of universities in North America are taking an approach that is very consistent with our own.
We recognize that you attended StFX and took the courses that you did so that you could learn the course material, earn your credits, and advance towards the completion of your degree. We believe that, in all cases, the teaching and grading plans that your instructors have put in place are appropriate to help you achieve your course goals. We ask that you try your best to focus your energies on completing the final week in your courses and then turn your attention to your final assignments and assessments.
As always, your instructors are here to support you in your academic journey in every way possible. Your instructors are working diligently to provide you with appropriate and meaningful learning as you complete your semester. As is always the case, if you are experiencing challenges due to illnesses or family and/or other personal issues, we encourage you to reach out to your Dean to discuss potential accommodations. Please know that the Faculty members that you have come to know and respect during your time at StFX will do everything possible to help you overcome the challenges that you now face during this unprecedented situation in which we all find ourselves.
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD
President & Vice-Chancellor
The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 presents an immense challenge for communities around the world, and the Antigonish region is no exception. While health and safety protocols for self-isolation and social distancing may keep us physically separated from one another, we must not – and will not – be separated emotionally or in terms of care for our neighbour. In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for our local communities to join together in solidarity and respect.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Maintain social and community connections – from a distance. Call your neighbours who live alone and may find this period of social distancing particularly isolating. Let them know you are thinking of them and, if you are in a position to do so, offer to pick up supplies or goods they cannot access themselves.
2. Stay informed. The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change rapidly, with all levels of government announcing new measures almost daily to help slow the spread of the virus. The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness has also updated their online self-assessment portal for people who think they have symptoms of the illness. Familiarize yourself with these resources, and check back often for updates:
• Government of Canada COVID-19 Portal: www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-cov...
• Province of Nova Scotia COVID-19 Portal: www.novascotia.ca/coronavirus/
• Nova Scotia self-screening tool for COVID-19: https://when-to-call-about-covid19.novascotia.ca/en
3. Follow Public Health Directives. Staying at home, washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, practicing social distancing, limiting your shopping to only essential goods (purchased once a week) and self-isolating if you feel sick, are all basic and critical actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
4. Be kind. Know that these are stressful and anxious times for everyone. Let’s work to ensure that everyone in the Antigonish area feels cared for and respected. Take a moment to thank those front-line workers who continue to keep our community running. Think about the international students within our community who are not able to return home to their families. Reach out to people whose employment has been impacted by the virus. It’s these people, like yourself, who are the fabric of our communities. By keeping each other strong, we keep ourselves strong.
The spread of COVID-19 rests upon our individual and collective actions. You have a responsibility to yourselves, your neighbours, and those healthcare workers who are on the front lines of battling COVID-19 to do your part. Please take these directives seriously and follow them fully. We are in this together.
Mayor, Town of Antigonish
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
Chief, Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation
Warden, Municipality of the County of Antigonish
To the Campus Community,
Weeks ago, we couldn’t have possibly imagined the challenges that we are facing today. In times like these, people really show you who they are, which leads me to say that I am exceptionally proud of (but not surprised) how our community – students, faculty, and staff alike – have risen to the occasion and responded with efficiency, patience, and true compassion. Together, in the past two weeks alone, we have:
• Transitioned all of our classes from in-person delivery to a number of online formats;
• Helped almost 2,000 students move off-campus much earlier than anticipated;
• Ensured that students and employees had access to health and wellness supports at this incredibly stressful time; and,
• Transitioned almost all of our staff and faculty to a remote working environment.
The scale of these changes has been significant, to say the least and I want to thank every one of you for helping make this happen. Crises have a way of bringing out the best in people, and I think it’s fair to say that we have seen the Xaverian spirit, as we know it and describe it, exemplified. You have gone above and beyond to help each other through very uncertain times, demonstrating resilience and patience when adapting to new learning, teaching, working, and living environments.
I also want to offer a special thank you to those employees who continue their work on campus because their responsibilities cannot be completed from home. It is important that we, as a community, recognize that there are a number of our colleagues who cannot be at home with families or loved ones throughout the day. They are working hard to maintain critical operations on campus. On behalf of the entire StFX community – our staff, faculty and students -- thank you to our frontline staff.
For all that has been done, there is still much to do. In the coming days we will be looking at how we will complete exams and evaluations, exploring, for example, the option of a pass/fail system. We have heard your questions, and want you to know we take them seriously. Please know we are considering these options very carefully and will reach out with information as soon as we can. At the same time, this environment is very unpredictable and new problems and concerns arise. Please bring any of your concerns forward to our attention so that we may be of assistance.
I also want to remind the campus community that now is a time to look after yourself, as well as one another. The stress and anxiety COVID-19 has introduced to us all is truly unprecedented. Please review the various mental health supports available and use them. There is no judgment given or shame associated with asking for help. This is precisely the reason for which these tools and services are designed. I have listed some at the bottom of this message for easy reference.
We have to recognize that removing ourselves from our routines and all of the interesting and rewarding parts of our workplace is not easy. In isolation, I find myself missing direct contact with colleagues and missing the friendly faces and conversations with students, staff, and faculty, some of the things that we may take for granted. In the coming weeks, StFX will provide information and materials to help you to stay connected. Look for calls for participation – we need to stay in touch.
Finally, please continue to share the strength and influence of our StFX community by checking in on friends, relatives, and neighbours who may find this time particularly hard. In recent days, a number of people have suggested replacing the phrase ‘social distancing’ with ‘physical distancing’ to reflect that, although we are separated physically, we can stay connected socially. So pick up the phone, launch Skype, or have a group Zoom session with your friends and family. Check in with one another, and ask for help if you need it. We will come through this by making sure that everyone feels seen, respected, and cared for.
Stay safe and healthy.
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD.
President and Vice-Chancellor
St. Francis Xavier University
Resources for Students:
• Healthy Minds NS
• Good2TalkNS: 1-833-292-3698
• Crisis Text Line: text “GOOD2TALKNS” to 686868
• NS Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-429-8167
• To arrange a phone meeting with a StFX Health and Counselling Centre staff member, email email@example.com.
Resources for Employees:
StFX’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) can provide you with immediate and confidential help for any work, health or life concern.
Access your EFAP:
• By phone: 1-800-387-4765
• By website: workhealthlife.com
• Download the MyEAP app in your app store
To the Campus Community,
Not long ago the Premier of Nova Scotia provided an update that included declaring a state of emergency for the province. Below is a link to his webcast for your reference.
(please note the update starts at approximately 24:00 mins)
At its root, a ‘state of emergency’ grants the government extended authority to create and enforce guidelines when necessary. In this particular instance, law enforcement will now have the authority to fine people who gather in groups of larger than five and/or who are not following prescribed social distancing protocols.
Protocols relating to travel were also updated. Effective today, anyone traveling into the province must self-isolate for 14 days. This is an expansion of the directive that anyone returning from international travel must self-isolate. Related to travel, the border between Canada and the United States has been closed to all non-essential travel. As restrictions continue to tighten, we will continue to assist students who are not able to travel home. Also, If you are member of our campus community, a Canadian citizen, and are having difficulty returning to Canada, it is imperative that you register with the Canadian Government https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration. Please let your Dean or Director know as well so we can assist if at all possible.
The Premier’s message was clear. We, as a community, must ensure that we continue to follow the directives of the Nova Scotia Public Health Authority. Avoid congregating in groups of larger than five individuals. If you must be in a space with more than five individuals, ensure you are practicing social distancing best practices, keeping a minimum of six feet apart from others.
These protocols are important. We all must do our part to not only protect our own health, but to ensure we do not overwhelm the healthcare system in the province.
This is not a time for fear or panic; rather, a time to focus on the three ‘C’s mentioned in the province’s update: Caring, Community and Common sense. Keeping protocols in mind, I ask that you reach out to help others who may be in need (e.g. groceries and supplies), particularly those in isolation, the elderly, or single parents.
Stay safe and healthy. We will get through this together.
Kevin B. Wamsley,
President and Vice-Chancellor
To the Campus Community
It’s been four days since the StFX campus started adapting to the new reality. I can say without hesitation that we -- students, faculty and staff -- have been presented with significant and unprecedented challenges, all within a very compressed time frame. The impact related to COVID-19 continues to evolve at a rapid pace with decisions being made on an hour-by-hour basis as new information materializes.
Having said that, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to our amazing community. It’s said that people come together during times of adversity and the StFX community has been proving this to be true. The level of collaboration, creativity, thoughtfulness, and, yes, understanding and patience is quite simply something to be acknowledged and be proud of. While we work out operational details, we, as a community continue to be resilient. Here are just some of the recent highlights:
- Our academic community is making tremendous progress regarding transitioning our academic delivery to an online model. With assistance from StFX’s IT staff, our faculty are discovering new opportunities to ensure the term will continue. Students, a reminder that classes will resume on Monday, March 23rd. Your professors will be sending you information regarding your classes by 4pm, Friday, March 20th. Please be sure to monitor your emails.
- Our students have been heeding our call to practice social distancing. The vast majority of those living in residence have either left campus or are in the process of moving home. Your cooperation and understanding has been tremendously helpful as we employ measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. To those students who don’t have the opportunity to go home, rest assured we will be here to offer continued support for as long as it takes.
- Our services and work on campus continues to wind down. As students make their way home, campus facilities have either closed or are operating with reduced hours. Those employees who are able to work from home have begun to do so and many more are in the process of transitioning to work from home. Please refer to our FAQs posted on stfx.ca/coronavirus for specific services information.
I extend my gratitude and appreciation to our alumni and friends of the university from around the world who have reached out to offer support. It’s humbling to be reminded of the reach (and the strength) of the Xaverian community. Thank you.
As of this afternoon, Nova Scotia Public Health is now reporting 12 cases of COVID-19 within the province. I can’t underscore enough our collective responsibility to do what we can to limit the risk of spreading the virus. I encourage you to be diligent and do your part – stay home, employ the recommended hygiene practices, and be considerate of those at higher risk within our communities.
For the latest updates from the university, visit www.stfx.ca/coronavirus.
Thanks to all and be safe.
Kevin B. Wamsley, PhD
President and Vice-chancellor