Community Update #24 - York University’s New COVID-19 Planning and Response Team

Community Update #24 - York University’s New COVID-19 Planning and Response Team

As we begin a new year at York University, supporting our community through the pandemic remains our top priority. As public health guidance continues to evolve alongside the rollout of vaccines, we have made some adjustments to the organization of our institutional response.

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Parissa Safai has been appointed as Special Advisor to the President for Academic Continuity Planning and COVID-19 Response. Dr. Safai is Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences and a former Associate Dean (Interim), Teaching, Learning and Student Affairs in the Faculty of Health. She will lead a small, dedicated team of staff members who will be focused on managing the University’s response to COVID in 2021. I am grateful that the following individuals will be joining this team:

  • Peter Aylan-Parker will be stepping away from his role as Associate Director, University Events & Ceremonies to serve as Project Manager, COVID-19 Planning & Response.
  • Octavio Colantonio, Coordinator CCTV & Access Control Technologies in Community Safety, will be seconded into the role of Campus Access Planning Advisor.
  • Jennifer Lee, Associate Director of Communications, Office of the Provost & Vice-President Academic will serve as Communications Advisor to the team.

The President and Vice-Presidents group will continue to provide overall policy guidance to keep our community safe, while ensuring academic and research continuity. Planning will be informed by priorities identified at the Academic Continuity Table led by the Provost & Vice-President Academic, and the Research Continuity Table led by the Vice-President Research & Innovation.

I want to extend special thanks to Samina Sami, Executive Director, Community Safety for her leadership at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), and the many other staff from across the University who have volunteered their time and worked tirelessly as members of the Emergency Management Team and EOC to support COVID-19 response planning since January 2020. Many of these staff members will remain involved in supporting the work of the COVID Planning and Response Group, while also recovering some time to devote to their regular roles. The University owes a great deal of its success in managing the pandemic to the dedication, personal commitment, and outstanding teamwork demonstrated by our professional staff colleagues, our administrative staff and on-the-ground workers.

We continue to actively monitor the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to inform planning for the Summer and Fall 2021 terms. As announcements on vaccine availability continue to be made, the team will update the community regularly. For the latest developments and the University’s approach to supporting our community, please continue to monitor YU Better Together.

We welcome these changes to support smooth operational planning at York University this year and appreciate the ongoing patience of our students, faculty and staff. With many supports in place to facilitate remote learning, we know that we will make both the current and upcoming term a success.


Rhonda L Lenton
President and Vice Chancellor