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COVID-19: A Guide for Faculty & Supervisors

A Ryerson student using their laptop while on a group video call.

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has required Ryerson students, faculty and staff to adapt to changing circumstances, including shifting to learning and working online, rather than in person on campus. Regardless of whether learning and working occurs in person or online, Ryerson is committed to fostering an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment and sexual violence and one in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. The same laws and policies that provide human rights protections to Ryerson community members continue to apply in both in-person and online environments.

This guide provides in-depth information about the importance of human rights protections for Ryerson community members taking into consideration the significant equity issues that may arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic for members of equity-deserving groups. It also outlines key responsibilities and resources for faculty and supervisors to assist them as leaders in maintaining inclusive learning and working environments.

Acknowledgement

Ryerson acknowledges the important work done by the University of Guelph, Office of Diversity and Human Rights in developing PDF fileFostering a Sense of Belonging in Times of Crisis and Challenge: An Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Handbook for Individuals and Organizations During COVID-19 in spring 2020, which served as inspiration for the development of this guide.

Related information

COVID-19 impacts on equity-deserving groups & key responsibilities for faculty/supervisors

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of everyone in the Ryerson community. However, COVID-19 does not affect everyone in the same way

The COVID-19 pandemic compounds existing inequalities that members of equity-deserving groups already experience. This section identifies:

  • Heightened barriers and differential impacts that members of the Ryerson community may experience.
  • Key human rights and responsibilities of faculty and supervisors.

This guide will outline some of the known disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on equity-deserving groups; however, the developing and long-term impacts on these groups are still far from known. What we do know is that the pandemic compounds the challenges experienced by equity-deserving groups due to ongoing systemic discriminaton and inequality. These disadvantages are magnified in a pandemic. For more information, read the Ontario Human Rights Commission policy statement on a human rights-based approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic, external link.


Ryerson’s student, faculty and staff population are made up of individuals in different age groups. Older people are at a higher risk of developing serious complications if they contract COVID-19. As a result, older people are advised to take extra precautions by limiting their exposure to the public, which may also lead to increased social isolation during the pandemic. 

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, must be responsive to the needs of older people during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure their full participation in the university free from discrimination and harassment.

In addition, you are encouraged to:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.

Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

Ryerson welcomes international students, faculty and staff to its campus every year; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to international travel restrictions, including restrictions on most non-essential travel to Canada. Where individuals are unable to return to Canada, they may be participating in university activities online while living in areas with limited access to the internet, technology or other necessary resources. These circumstances will continue to affect international students, faculty and staff.

Immigrants and migrants in Canada also face uneven impacts of COVID-19, including as front-line workers and having limited access to government benefits. 

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, need to ensure that international students, faculty and staff are supported in these challenging times and that they do not face disadvantages with respect to their full participation in the university due to the fact that they are not Canadian citizens. 

In order to meet these responsibilities, you should:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.
  • Follow these tips to act in solidarity with racialized and Indigenous communities.

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

Resources and services

The Ryerson community includes students, faculty and staff with diverse religious and spiritual beliefs, backgrounds and practices. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s ability to gather for religious or spiritual  practice. It also affects celebrations/ceremonies of religious holidays or mourning the loss of family and community members.

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, have a duty to accommodate the religious and spiritual s differences and practices of its students, faculty and staff to ensure the full participation of all community members in the university in a manner that is free from discrimination and harassment.

Refer to Ryerson’s Accommodation of Student Religious, Aboriginal, and Spiritual Observance Policy for additional information about responsibilities of faculty and supervisors.

For more information including how faculty and supervisors should accommodate religious observances for employees and students, visit the Religious and Cultural Observances page. This page also outlines Religious, Spiritual and Cultural Observances calendars that faculty and supervisors should keep in mind when planning events, exams and assignment deadlines.

In order to meet these responsibilities, you should:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

Resources and services

Persons with disabilities within the Ryerson community of students, faculty and staff may be experiencing heightened levels of vulnerability and isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They may be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their disabilities as well as the measures put in place in response to the pandemic. Social distancing requirements will limit their access to support systems, critical care services, and their communities. Family members may be required to provide support for loved ones with disabilities where other resources are no longer available. 

Ryerson is committed to upholding the principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity for all persons with disabilities within our community. This includes a priority focus on accessibility and the absence of barriers in building an inclusive environment, both in university classrooms and workplace settings.

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson has a duty to accommodate students, faculty and staff with disabilities in the delivery of educational services and in the context of employment. It is important to note that individuals’ accommodation needs may change as a result of the pandemic and subsequent shift to remote learning and working environments. This obligation to accommodate applies for persons with both physical and mental health-related disabilities.

In addition, you are encouraged to:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.

When it comes to the duty to accommodate, you should listen to individuals’ needs and work with them to explore and implement appropriate accommodations. 

  • Individuals seeking accommodation are generally required to provide information about their disability-related needs and participate actively in the accommodation process. 
  • If accommodation is sought, it is important to remember that accommodation options must be considered and implemented on a individualized basis and must be provided up to the point of undue hardship. 
  • Undue hardship is not established simply because the accommodation may be inconvenient or may affect the morale of others not receiving the accommodations. Undue hardship may only be based on considerations such as excessive cost (including consideration of any outside sources of funding) and health and safety requirements. 

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

Resources and services

Ryerson students, faculty and staff are part of diverse family units. 

The familial demands on individuals during COVID-19 may have changed in connection with their family status (i.e. the status of being in a parent and child relationship). The closure of schools and daycares has increased childcare responsibilities, particularly on women and single-parent households. There may also be increased responsibilities in caring for parents who are unable to live alone or remain within long-term care facilities. 

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, have a duty to accommodate the family status of its’ students, faculty and staff to ensure the full participation of all community members in the university in a manner that is free from discrimination and harassment. The duty to accommodate childcare and eldercare responsibilities applies in both the provision of educational services and in the context of employment.

In order to meet these responsibilities, you should:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.

When it comes to the duty to accommodate, you should listen to individuals’ needs and work with them to explore and implement appropriate accommodations. 

  • Individuals seeking accommodation are generally required to provide information about their family status responsibilities and any alternative arrangements that may be available in the circumstances. 
  • If accommodation is sought, it is important to remember that accommodation options must be considered and implemented on an individualized basis and must be provided up to the point of undue hardship. 
  • Undue hardship is not established simply because the accommodation may be inconvenient or may affect the morale of others not receiving the accommodations. Undue hardship may only be based on considerations such as excessive cost (including consideration of any outside sources of funding) and health and safety requirements. 

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge

Resources and services

Ryerson students, faculty and staff are from diverse backgrounds, including with respect to race, colour, ethnic origin, place of origin and ancestry.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, ethno-culturally diverse neighbourhoods in Ontario have experienced disproportionately higher rates of infection and related deaths. This is occurring in marginalized communities that may already be experiencing significant challenges related to systemic racism and discrimination. 

In the city of Toronto, it has been reported that 83% of COVID-19 cases have affected racialized people, despite the fact that this group makes up only 50% of the city’s population. 

The systemic inequality embedded in the healthcare system, education, policing and other social institutions and practices compound challenges facing racialized communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, need to be aware of these challenges and ensure that university policies and practices do not disadvantage racialized students, faculty and staff or serve to exacerbate existing inequalities. 

In order to meet these responsibilities, you should:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.
  • Follow these tips to  act in solidarity with racialized and Indigenous communities:

Tips on acting in solidarity with racialized and Indigenous communities 

  • Be informed. Stay informed and help educate others in order to undermine racist and discriminatory attitudes and practices within the university and the broader community.
  • Be alert. Identify and speak out against discrimination and harassment in all its forms when you encounter it, both on campus and online. 
  • Be an ally. Support those affected by acts of racism by listening, affirming and asking what type of assistance a person might need. Do your research and share information about resources for supporting those affected by racism and reporting experiences of discrimination and harassment. 
  • Be a leader. Lead by example and hold others accountable for the reinforcement of racist stereotypes, attitudes and practices. Be aware of your obligation to ensure that students, faculty and staff have learning and working environments free of discrimination and harassment.  

 Anti-Asian racism 

Anti-Asian racism has increased throughout Canada as a result of discriminatory views that people of East Asian ethnicity pose a threat to public health and safety or are to “blame” for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

 Anti-Black racism

Anti-Black racism and widespread protests against the systemic discrimination experienced by the Black communities in Canada have risen to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Toronto Board of Health voted unanimously to declare anti-Black racism a public health crisis in June 2020 and has committed to address such discrimination and inequality in COVID-19 recovery planning. 

The Ontario Human Rights Commission, as part of its inquiry into racial profiling and discrimination by the Toronto Police Service stated in their August 2020 report that Black people are more likely to be arrested, charged, over-charged, struck, shot or killed by the Toronto police. 

Black communities also raise concerns of racial profiling and retention of information arising from the Emergency Order in Council issued during the pandemic, which allows police officers to demand identifying information if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person has violated one of the emergency orders. 

In July 2020, Ryerson released its Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review report that highlights Black student, faculty and staff experiences of racism at the university. Black people reported systemic exclusion within the university, including lack of representation across all areas of the institution, the existence of racist hostility and use of racist language, as well as other subtle and overt practices that make Black people feel not fully welcome or on equal terms with others at Ryerson. The report also provides recommendations for creating a more inclusive campus environment.

Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

 Indigenous communities 

Indigenous communities in Canada also face unique challenges during COVID-19. Pre-existing inequalities such as a lack of access to clean water, adequate housing and infrastructure have made these communities more susceptible to the virus.

Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

Resources and services

Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionately negative impact on women. Women are experiencing significant economic hardships and their participation in the labour market has declined significantly. Women and in particular racialized women often work in precarious jobs and service positions that have been impacted negatively by COVID-19. In addition, women continue to be the primary caregivers to children, people with disabilities and elderly parents, and are facing mounting responsibilities. Please refer to the COVID-19 impacts on the basis of marital and family status for related information.

There have also been widespread reports of increased gender-based violence, including intimate partner abuse, sexual assault and emotional abuse, as people’s movements and access to support systems outside of the home have been restricted. 

Ryerson has a Sexual Violence Policy that outlines the university’s commitment to combat sexual violence in all forms within its community, including through support for people affected by sexual violence, awareness, education, training and prevention programs, and the appropriate handling of reports of sexual violence incidents. 

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, need to be aware of the challenges faced by women during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that university policies and practices do not further disadvantage them. Ryerson has a duty to ensure that it is fostering an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. 

In order to meet these responsibilities, you should:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.
  • If someone discloses sexual violence to you, consult with and refer others to Consent Comes First. You don’t need to be an expert to offer support - Be B.R.A.V.E.

B - Begin by listening

R - Respect confidentiality

A - Ask what support looks like to them 

V - Validate them 

E - Empathize  

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge

Resources and services

The Ryerson community includes students, faculty and staff from the diverse 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

Members of this community are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and are more likely to experience adverse effects from the virus. Trans+ and non-binary people are also at risk of gender-based violence. Much of this is rooted in social barriers and systemic discrimination. 

Key human rights responsibilities of faculty and supervisors

Ryerson community members, and especially faculty and supervisors, must acknowledge and work to combat the discrimination and harassment experienced by members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community within the university, including in remote/online learning and working environments. 

In order to meet these responsibilities, you should:

  • Be proactive about inclusion from the start.
  • Understand your duties and responsibilities, including the requirement to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment both in-person and online.
  • If a concern about discrimination and/or harassment is brought to your attention:
    • Seek to understand and be responsive to the person who points this out to you.
    • Review the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy to understand how they apply.
  • Consult with and refer others to Human Rights Services for more information.

 Related articles and resources to expand your knowledge 

Resources and services