November 2, 2020

UPDATE: Winter Planning in AMPD

York University's subway station in the winter, covered with snow.



Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng

To the AMPD Community:

I hope this message finds you healthy and safe as we all continue to endure the challenges of COVID-19. If you’re reading this, you’ve already achieved more than many thought possible. You’ve continued learning or teaching in courses that we might never have envisioned could be offered in online/remote delivery. You’ve found imaginative new ways to explore your discipline and to lead others through the current crisis. You’re finding new opportunities for community and collaborations. You are demonstrating that resilience and perseverance can carry us through the current challenges. For all you have done and will continue to do, thank you.

At the same time, many of you are also advocating and working toward greater inclusion, equity and justice in our programs, both for today and tomorrow. I commend all of the students, faculty, staff and administrators, most especially our racialized colleagues, who have taken up the demands of this moment to work toward better, equitable and inclusive communities at AMPD. I have heard from many of you and have been grateful for the opportunity to listen and learn from your experiences and insights. These serve as the foundation for continued improvement toward our aims of diverse and inclusive communities at AMPD and at York.

I also want to first to thank everyone for your efforts to protect each other and to ensure the well-being and safety of everyone in AMPD and at York. Your continued efforts have kept infections at York low, even while we have included select in-person learning opportunities this fall. As of November 2, there are 2 confirmed cases reported at York University. However, amid the rising numbers, we must remain cautious.As a reminder, you can receive up-to-date information at the YUBetterTogether website. Thank you for your continued support of these efforts and each other. For more information, see:

Student in a black shirt and baseball cap wears PPE in Visual Arts studio
Student wears PPE in Visual Arts studio

In alignment with current public health guidelines, York University has extended its principles for Fall 2020 Course Planning to the Winter 2021 term. Following the careful administration and success of our fall in-person offerings, we will continue to expand opportunities for in-person and on-campus instruction and experiential education in the Winter 2021 term.

  1. As before, we will continue to make decisions informed by the latest available advice from Toronto Public Health and Public Health Ontario. Preparations for any on-campus activities will be accompanied by the following considerations and actions:
  • Everyone will follow available safety protections, including personal protection equipment (PPE) as advised by Public Health;
  • Available sanitizer and PPE in all available spaces;
  • Maintaining records of usage for contact tracing;
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation in spaces: studios, labs and common spaces;
  • Clear signage regarding access and safety procedures;
  • Access to specialized equipment via curbside pick-up;
  • Strict social distancing protocols;
  • Carefully coordinated activity throughout our spaces to avoid inadvertent contact in passageways and while entering and exiting AMPD and University spaces.

We will continue to prioritize the safety of everyone in our community.

  1. We will also continue to invest in resources and infrastructure needed to support excellent instruction via online/remote delivery. In addition to increasing resources for IT support, the Remotely Interesting community of practice will continue as a resource for all instructors, providing information, community and a repository of tools and advice. This extraordinary resource has been made possible through the dedication and imagination of AMPD faculty and staff who have adapted their courses to online and remote-learning environments and who continue to share ideas with each other. Over 300 colleagues regularly participate in the group with a robust and growing catalog of resources to support innovative teaching throughout the Faculty.
  • Students seeking with questions about eClass and Zoom can find more information here.
  • Students may report technical issues by emailing Please use your York student email account.
  1. Within the health and safety parameters noted above, we will continue to expand opportunities for in-person activities. If possible within prevailing health and safety guidelines, we expect to double the number of in-person courses in Winter 2021, with expanded opportunities for on-campus teaching support and graduate student progress. Most on-campus activities will also have options for students who cannot or will not attend in person and instructors will work closely with students to determine suitable alternatives when required access is not possible. We will support all enrolled students so that they will be able to progress in their respective programs.
  2. Faculty and graduate student researchers have steadily increased in-person access this fall, so we will continue to expand these opportunities gradually over the Winter 2021 term. Any expansion of activities will continue cautiously and within the health and safety protocols, coordinated across the University. The emphasis on health and safety and the availability of PPE and other protections may mean that access to spaces will not yet return to pre-COVID access, but we will continue to monitor the situation on campus with the goal of continuing research safely.

What about performances, galleries, and other events?

York U students perform the Ashley Plays over conferencing platform Zoom
‘The Ashley Plays’ were performed virtually on Oct 25 and have received 400 views on YouTube

Again, we defer to the Toronto and Provincial authorities and prevailing policies on large gatherings. At this time, we anticipate that many of our usual live events will not be possible as previously planned. However, we will continue to seek further opportunities in a rapidly changing performing arts landscape.

In AMPD spaces, we are making new investments to re-imagine the future of creative and performing arts that leads us through the current challenges and prepares artists to thrive in a post-COVID environment. We are retrofitting our studios and spaces to serve not only York students, but also the larger performing arts sector through livestreaming capabilities and use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies in teaching and research.

(If you’re interested in reading more about some of the thinking behind these changes, feel free to ready my essay for The Conversation Canada about what the performing arts can learn from professional sports.)

Our hope is that by continuing our current practices, we will be able to safely increase on-campus opportunities for many of our students seeking in-person learning. In the meantime, we will use this time to expand the capacities in our spaces so that we can increase both use during the current crisis and prepare for new and greater opportunities once we can return more fully to campus. These investments will not only support current and future students, they will provide important resources for our various community and professional partners to help the arts and culture sectors respond and grow in the years to come.

I continue to believe that the imaginations and creative energies of AMPD’s diverse student body are urgently needed within current debates about the future of arts and culture in Canada and beyond. As we continue over the next several months, we will no doubt continue to face many challenges. However, we must not allow these challenges to overwhelm us or to diminish our spirits. Together, we have already accomplished more than many thought possible. As I talk to students, faculty and staff throughout AMPD, I am amazed by our community’s ingenuity and what we have created together during this challenging time. As we reflect on the past several months, we can all take pride in what we have accomplished during this time and as we look to the future, we can know that whatever comes, we can meet and overcome these challenges together.

With my gratitude,
Sarah Bay-Cheng
Dean, AMPD