Our ideas about community have been dramatically altered during the last three years. At universities in particular, deep questions emerged about the scope, shape, and role of the campus community: can a university fulfill its academic mission wholly online? What is gained—and lost—from in-person interactions among faculty, students, and staff? How can a researcher go into the field online? What opportunities present themselves to expand our communities virtually?
As it turned out, universities were and remain sites of enormous experimentation, adaptation, and resilience during the depths of the pandemic and in this new, uncertain phase of adjustment. As faculty and researchers return to in-person experiential teaching, fieldwork, and community-based research practices, they will carry lessons from the pandemic that will inform the next iteration of their work. For students, the pandemic has led to a re-imagining of what education can look like. For some, engaging online has been challenging and detrimental, while for others virtual teaching and learning has led to innovation and a welcome change in perspective. It is clear from preliminary research and anecdotal evidence that many of the negative aspects of these changes, such as increased workload and home care, have disproportionately affected women and people from equity-seeking groups.
In the next issue of Academic Matters, a higher education journal published by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, authors explore the many facets of community creation, enhancement, and research that have been called into stark relief over the past few years. In each one, an author expands on the idea of community to imagine what might come next based on what we’ve learned. The university continues to play a vital role in how communities are formed and how they are studied. Only with reflection, analysis, and engagement with the very concept of a “campus community” can we ensure that the future of these spaces is more inclusive and robust than ever before. Academic Matters is available free online at www.academicmatters.ca.