COVID-19: Notice from Senate

March 17, 2020

The following notice confirms the actions that are being taken to complete the academic term and to administer examinations.


During the time of the current disruption due to the COVID-19 precautionary measures, academic programming and curricular matters are governed by the principles of Academic Integrity, Fairness to Students, and Timely Information, as set out in the Senate Policy on the Academic Implications of Disruptions of University Business (Policy no. 8-1008).

In the case of a Disruption, the primary obligation of Senate is to ensure the academic integrity of all programs. There should be as little diminution as possible in the standards normally expected of students or in the instructional and supervisory support given to students.

Students who do not participate in academic activities because they are unable owing to circumstances dictated by the disruption are entitled to immunity from penalty; to reasonable alternative access to materials covered in their absence; to reasonable extensions of deadlines and to other such remedies; as long as those remedies do not alter the academic standards associated with the missed activities. Students are not relieved from mastering material that is covered.

The current disruption is defined by the policy as a long disruption, in that it affects more than 10% of contact hours, that is, class instruction hours in the physical classroom or lab as outlined in the Registrar’s official timetable. Because of this, the Senate Executive Committee assumes responsibility for overseeing the process of directing and implementing remedial guidelines and measures aimed at resolving conflicts between the principles of academic integrity and fairness to students.

Course completion and examination

In keeping with Section 3.3 the Senate Policy on the Academic Implications of Disruptions of University Business, Senate Executive approved the following guidelines and measures: 

  1. That in all dealings faculty members affirm the importance of academic integrity and fairness to students;
  2. That all courses will be completed under a modified grading scheme that is fair and reasonable to students;
  3. That faculty members are required to provide students with an opportunity to complete the courses in which they are registered;
  4. That revised grading schemes shall be communicated to students by 20 March 2020
  5. That students shall not be required to come to campus for the purposes of assessment or to submit assignments;
  6. That although final assessments will not be in-person, any modified assessment during the final exam period will take place as scheduled;
  7. That both faculty and students recognize that flexibility will be required with respect to submission of assignments. Students can use email, Brightspace Dropbox, or other means to submit their assignments, papers, take-home exams, etc. Exceptions to the submission guidelines stipulated by the instructor will be considered by the instructor;
  8. That under Section 3.4, students will retain the right to appeal academic issues arising from modified syllabi that did not conform to the above principles articulated by Senate Executive.

Supports for Remote Teaching and Examination 

At this time all campus services are available as usual, including the Library, which will operate during reduced hours, as posted.

The Studio for Teaching and Learning has been active since the end of last week in pulling together and creating resources for faculty in anticipation of this need.

In making decisions about completion of courses in circumstances of remote teaching, faculty members have many options, including but not limited to: completing coursework remotely through personal study (such as enhanced readings and communication with students over email, as a low-technology-dependent solution), augmented course materials available through Brightspace, virtual class meetings, etc. For more help and resources in adapting the last part of this semester’s course work for remote teaching, the team at the Studio for Teaching and Learning has been hard at work developing a set of resource tools to assist faculty, drawing on expertise and guidance from across the country. These are available through the website

Faculty are also encouraged to get in touch directly with staff members at the Studio with specific questions.

In making decisions about final exams or alternate assignments, faculty members have many options, including but not limited to take-home exams (due at the end of the exam period as stipulated by the Registrar’s Office), online exams, additional assignments instead of a final examination, etc. For help with maintaining the integrity of exams delivered online, faculty are also encouraged to visit the website and to consult with staff members at the Studio. 

Final Notes

Consistent with provincial guidelines, social distancing protocols should be followed in any in-person meetings. Faculty members are encouraged to make use of the attached COVID-19 posters by posting them prominently on their office doors and/or circulating them to students via other communication channels.

In conducting their teaching remotely while the University remains open, faculty members are expected to communicate with students on a regular and ongoing basis, and to maintain the required number of office hours stipulated by the Collective Agreement either in person or virtually.

Also, an FAQ will be developed, where many of their questions are answered. Information about this page will be communicated as soon as possible, and it will be updated regularly as necessary.

When the Disruption ends, or circumstances change, the Senate Executive Committee shall declare so and shall give notice to students and faculty members of the procedures then in effect under the same policy.

Please know that the Academic Senate, along with the rest of the university, is working to support you through this time. We will be continuing to meet on this topic to help ensure that we support our students’ academic progress in these challenging circumstances. 

On behalf of Senate Executive:

Tatjana Takseva
Chair, Saint Mary’s University Academic Senate

Malcolm Butler
Vice-President, Academic and Research

Continue to visit for updates, and send your questions to

Other Saint Mary's COVID-19 information pages


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