[COVID-19] Critical Operations to Support University’s Core Commitments (PDAD&C #54)

To:  All Employees
From: Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost
Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives
Date:  March 17, 2020
Re:  [COVID-19] Critical Operations to Support University’s Core Commitments (PDAD&C #54)

As Canada continues to deal with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University remains committed to playing our part in ensuring the health and wellbeing of our community. Equally important is our commitment to three core activities:

  • ensuring that our students can complete their term,
  • providing a place to live for those students in residence who are unable to return home, and
  • supporting the critical COVID-19 and time-sensitive research endeavors of our world-class scholars.

As part of Canada’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Premier of Ontario has today declared a state of emergency and the Prime Minister has encouraged all Canadians to stay home wherever possible. In response to these announcements, we are working to allow more employees to telecommute and to have more flex-time arrangements.

The University remains open but encourages employees who can work from home to do so. For the University to deliver on our commitments to teaching, residences and critical research, some employees will be required to come to our campuses, and we remain committed to their health and safety. Some employees may be assigned to other duties.

This memo contains more details about what this will entail.

Academic Continuity

At the core of our actions is our commitment to enable students to complete their term and start the summer session. Following our memo of March 13, faculty and instructors are now delivering the remainder of their courses without in-class instruction.

Libraries at the University of Toronto will be closed as of 11:59 pm, March 17, 2020. The Robarts Library at the St. George campus and the libraries at UTM and UTSC will be open to members of the U of T community with limited staff and very limited services to support technology needs for those students who need to access resources required to complete their courses. All digital services remain operational and accessibility services will also be available. 

Student Residences

We will continue to provide residences for those students who cannot return home at this point.  The University is working on ways to support students who will not be able to return home when the term ends. 

More information for students living in residences will be available on the Office of the Vice-Provost Students website.


In accordance with guidance from government officials, the University is advising that all lab-based research operations must be shut down no later than 5 pm, Friday March 20, 2020. We will consider exceptions for critical COVID-19 research and time-sensitive critical projects that are approved by the Incident Management Team based on the University’s protocol for the approval of critical or time-sensitive research.

Those who are able to continue their research off-campus should continue as long as it is safe to do so and should assign appropriate work to trainees and staff. For research staff who cannot be assigned remote tasks, HR & Equity has provided guidance (see below) about pay continuance and potential redeployment.

Shut down of laboratory research operations should be done in a safe and orderly manner according to the guidance provided by the U of T Research Oversight and Compliance Office. 

Maintaining Operations and Working Remotely

The University has been developing business continuity plans and together we are consulting with senior leadership to ensure that these plans allow the core functions of the University to continue.

Any employee who can work from home should do so. Guidance on telecommuting, flex-time arrangements, and pay continuity for those who cannot work from home can be found on the HR & Equity COVID-19 website.

For the University to deliver on our commitments to teaching, residences and critical research, and the services to support these activities, some employees will be required to come to our campuses. We remain committed to their health and safety.Managers should refer to the University’s Business Continuity website for guidance in determining these critical functions. In order for the University to continue its operations at this time, some employees may also be assigned to other duties.

All University buildings will be closed as of 11:59 pm, March 17, 2020 to the general public. Members of the University community will need key or fob access to enter them or present appropriate identification to campus security.  

For all the latest information, please see the University’s Coronavirus page. Please take the time to review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), the HR & Equity COVID-19 website, and the Research Labs COVID-19 FAQs. If you or members of your unit have a question that is not covered, please consider using the Contact Us button located at the top of the FAQ section to submit your question.