Over the past week, we have seen the global COVID-19 pandemic transform our everyday life.
In my 37 years of policing, I watched the impact of emergencies and crises on communities. As the chief for York Regional Police from 2002 to 2010, I experienced epidemics like SARS and H1N1 first-hand and noted the way that they affected the communities I served from a health and anxiety perspective.
Last July, I became the Chair of Trent University’s Board of Governors. I knew the University as well prepared for emergencies, but no one expected the current test of those plans to unfold as dramatically as it has. As a community leader, Trent is playing an integral role and demonstrating leadership, particularly as it comes to putting students, and the health and wellbeing of our community first.
As we see COVID-19 touch our communities, at home and around the world, true leadership will be required to bring people together, thoughtfully implement emergency plans, and navigate the uncharted terrain that lies ahead.
As an important guiding principle during emergency situations, teamwork is critically important. This is a time for people to park their politics and fiefdoms, and work together – the future of our communities depends on it. Collaboration, compassion and communication are of the utmost importance, and a solid plan will help us navigate the path ahead.
Working in collaboration, while simultaneously social distancing can be tricky, however people are coming together in new and innovative ways. In emergency situations it is important to know in advance the people you need to work with. At Trent University, strong partnerships have been paramount, internally at the University, as well as with stakeholders across sectors and levels of government.
Showing compassion is one of the most important pieces of advice for leaders at this time. Trent’s response has been one that aims to keep the community safe and healthy, while also delivering a world-class academic experience. There have been many glimmering moments of hope over the past week, as faculty work in creative ways to deliver course content online, student leaders come together to support the students across both campuses, and staff put in extra hours and adapt to working from home.
One thing that has impressed me is the level and frequency of communication that is happening between Trent University and its many stakeholders. Providing current information, dispelling misinformation and disseminating the advice of health experts must be done. In a time of uncertainty, Trent is actively anticipating questions while maintaining a calm and professional manner in responding to those who are looking to the institution’s leaders for guidance.
I am quite confident, that this pandemic will have a lasting impact on society in a variety of ways. We will likely see a greater emphasis on health as it relates to global travel. We could see changes to how we strengthen and personalize our virtual connections as people live, work and study remotely. People and organizations are being tested right now and they will see what they are capable of in critical situations.
As I heard one Trent staff member insightfully say, “Social distancing brings us closer.” One thing I do hope to see is that we look at how this experience can make us stronger.
Armand La Barge is the chair of Trent University’s Board of Governors. With an extensive career in police leadership, Mr. La Barge began his career with York Regional Police in 1973 and in 2002 he was appointed Chief of Police, a position he held until his retirement in December 2010. Chief (Ret) La Barge served as the President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and he was an associate member of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association. This article was originally published by Peterborough This Week.