May 12, 2024

Supports for students and colleagues

A message to academics at the University of Calgary

Good morning. This has been a difficult week, with the removal of an encampment from the University of Calgary on Thursday evening. It remains an emotional and intense period for our campus community as we work to balance freedom of speech and public safety for everyone. 

Many of you have reached out requesting guidance in supporting students and colleagues. I wanted to share some of the ways we can help one another at this time. 

Mental health and well-being

Members of the campus community may approach you with concerns or express that they are struggling right now. The most important thing is to acknowledge their feelings and ensure they know there are supports available. Guidance on how to identify if someone is in distress, and what to do to help them, can be found on the Campus Mental Health Strategy website

Counselling services are available to all employees through the Employee Family Assistance Program

And for students, counselling and other important services and programs can be found on the Student Wellness Services site found here. Of note, if a student needs immediate assistance, please direct them to contact the Distress Centre for access to 24/7 support.

Student advisors and support teams are also on hand to meet with students, to connect them to services and to identify any emerging needs. Please refer students to the Student Success Centre or email the team at

Teaching and learning 

What happens locally and globally impacts our teaching, learning and research. Accessing resources created by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning can be useful as you navigate the coming weeks: 

The Strategies for Promoting Positive Learning Environments includes guidance on how to address disruptive and harmful behaviours. This includes planning ahead to prevent and de-escalate situations. It also makes clear that, if challenging circumstances arise that substantially disrupt the learning environment, or pose health and safety concerns, you may request assistance from Campus Security.

The Resource Guide for Teaching Academic Courses at UCalgary suggests developing a safety plan, including reviewing safety procedures and resources and connecting with the Student at Risk Team for support, if needed.

Freedom of speech

Free speech, including uncomfortable conversations, is an important part of who we are as a university. Universities must always be a place to question ideas and to have challenging conversations. Peaceful protests can continue to take place at the University of Calgary. 

In addition to free speech, we also need to ensure our campus is a safe place for all. Creating encampments or barricades is not allowed on campus because of the potential safety risks for everyone. 

The University of Calgary’s Statement on Free Expression provides a guide for us. 

I know that what feels safe can look different to each of us. We will need to hold space for each other as we talk through individual lived experiences and understand how we can create a place for respectful dialogue during these challenging times. 

As we all reflect on this past week, I want to thank you for all you do to support our campus community and, most importantly, each other. Continue to work towards understanding each other and differing viewpoints. Continue to have difficult conversations in a respectful and thoughtful manner. 

Penny Werthner, PhD 
Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic)  

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