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The show must go on: Brock prof encouraged by theatre’s resiliency in midst of cancellations

Wed, 2020-04-08 11:09

MEDIA RELEASE: 8 April 2020 – R0064

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating blow on the performing arts, but a Brock University Dramatic Arts professor is encouraged by what she has seen from the industry.

“A vibrant industry went to ground over a matter of days, with theatres at first announcing cancelled or postponed productions and then, in most cases, cancelling the remainder of their winter-spring seasons,” says Karen Fricker, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts and theatre critic for the Toronto Star. “Most performing artists are precarious gig workers who are seeing current and future bookings evaporate.”

In St. Catharines, arts organizations including the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the Meridian Centre, Essential Collective Theatre and Carousel Players are among those that have cancelled or postponed programming through May.

The Stratford Festival has cancelled performances through to late May, and Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival through June. While Shaw has not laid off workers and is conducting rehearsals online, Stratford has temporary laid off 470 employees, including actors, technicians and box office workers.

But Fricker sees hope among the gloomy news.

“Theatre companies and artists have been demonstrating amazing resilience and ingenuity during this time of crisis,” she says. “A lot of activity has gone online.”

Essential Collective Theatre is turning its annual vaudeville fundraiser into an online affair. “Quarantine Cabaret” will feature short video recordings of various acts, including singing, magic, clowning, drag and melodramatic readings, which will be livestreamed at the end of April.

Several Toronto-based companies are putting on telephone plays: one-on-one shows in which an audience member gets a hand-made personal story delivered to them over the phone, says Fricker.

“DLT (DopoLavoro Teatrale), known to local audiences for their immersive shows including That Ugly Mess that Happened in St. Catharines, is producing a series of phone and online performances,” says Fricker. Some of the performances are inspired by Boccacio’s Decameron, a 14th–century collection of novellas about a group of youth sheltering outside Florence to escape the Black Death.

“I have been uplifted by engaging with online theatre over the past few weeks,” Fricker says.

“Watching theatre this way is not the same as sharing the same physical space and time with fellow audience members and the artists themselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser experience. It’s different, and theatres and audiences alike are adapting to what is, for now, the new normal.”

Brock University Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker is available for media interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, or 905-347-1970

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Brock team begins online study of children’s experiences during COVID-19

Tue, 2020-04-07 16:36

Media Release: 7 April 2020 – R0063

It was a news report on the dramatic rise in calls to Kids Help Phone that moved Rebecca Raby to action.

As a researcher with a long history of working with children and youth, the Brock University Professor of Child and Youth Studies was concerned, and curious, about how young people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Raby and her research team of six graduate students have now launched their online study of children’s and young people’s experiences at home during the pandemic.

“Clearly, there are children who are in a lot of distress out there,” says Raby. “But I suspect we’re also going to hear stories about really cool, compelling things that kids have started to initiate at home with parents, siblings, on their own or online.”

Raby and her team are starting one-on-one online interviews this week with up to 30 children and youth from ages eight to 15.

The research team member is asking participants a number of open-ended questions, says Raby. Some example questions include:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What’s your favourite thing to do each day?
  • What are you finding hardest about this situation?
  • Have the rules of your household changed?
  • How has the situation changed your extra-curricular activities and your job, if you have one?

The team will do another round of online interviews in two weeks, asking the same questions, and then they’ll repeat that every two weeks over the next few months. In between the major sessions will be “mini-interviews” to stay in touch with participants, says Raby.

“I think that this is an opportunity for some kids to have extra social contact,” she says.

Raby and her team sought to recruit children and youth from a wide diversity of backgrounds and age ranges. They’re still seeking participants from lower-income families.

“The experiences of children during the pandemic are going to vary so greatly depending on a number of factors, including if they have disabilities, are lower income, the size of their living space, whether they are travelling back and forth between parents,” she says. “All of those kinds of things can shape what their experiences of the pandemic will be.”

Raby says the pandemic has greatly accelerated the team’s research process, and that she’s been “really impressed” that Brock’s Research Ethics Board has been open to quickly reviewing research applications related to the pandemic.

As soon as patterns and themes start emerging from the interviews, Raby plans on sharing the findings with media so that the wider public is aware of children’s and young peoples’ experiences right away.

“I suspect we’re going to learn a lot about personal coping, family dynamics and online peer friendships,” says Raby, “providing us with a sense of how children are dealing with this difficult situation.”

Such knowledge might help families by offering ideas and coping strategies arising from the young people themselves, she says, and provide government and service organizations with ideas on how to better support children who are having a hard time.

Down the road, the team aims to publish their findings, partly as an historical record of this time and also “to inform thinking about children’s experiences in social isolation in general,” says Raby.

“There are children who are in social isolation quite regularly, even in normal life.”

Professor of Child and Youth Studies Rebecca Raby is available for media interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-347-1970

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Think there are no Tiger Kings in Canada? Think again, says Brock expert

Tue, 2020-04-07 12:05

Media Release: 7 April 2020 – R0062

As the world reels from the physical, psychological, social and economic effects of COVID-19, millions of people are being temporarily distracted by the Netflix docuseries Tiger King.

For many, the show has a Jerry Springer effect, allowing viewers to watch — with their jaws dropped — people and places that seem so different and shocking. But Brock University Associate Professor and Labour Studies Chair Kendra Coulter says Tiger King is more of a reflection of Canadian society than many think it is.

“It’s legal to own tigers in most of Canada,” she says. “And lions. And monkeys. Trade, consumption and possession of wild animals is not simply ‘over there’ or the domain of Joe Exotic.”

Coulter, an expert in animal welfare issues, says that while precise numbers are difficult to obtain, the best data suggests there are more than 1.5 million privately owned exotic animals in Canada, including more than 3,000 big cats.

“Each province determines how or if it will regulate the importation and possession of exotic animals, so the specifics vary greatly around the country,” she says. “There is a 50-page list of banned species in B.C., but in Ontario, it’s only illegal to own two kinds of animals: orcas and pit bulls.

“The province’s 444 municipalities are empowered to make bylaws that prohibit or restrict exotic animal ownership and some have done so, but many have not.”

But Tiger King is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic in more ways than just being a distraction, Coulter says.

“Research suggests the trade and consumption of wild animals are the origin of this pandemic, and this has been true of most recent outbreaks,” she says. “But this zoonotic (human to animal) transmission did not occur in a vacuum. As the United Nations Environmental Program and many researchers have been pointing out for decades, rampant deforestation, industrial animal agriculture and the global trade in exotic species have combined to create a ‘ticking time bomb.’”

Coulter believes Tiger King is also a reflection of society.

“Both have misogyny and domestic violence, people marginalized because of their sexual and gender identities, disabilities and criminal records and people desperate for income and a job, a sense of belonging, love, status and respect,” she says. “Most glaringly, the selfish use and abuse of animals, to their detriment, and to our own, is all too real.”

Coulter says Canada needs integrated health and economic programs that take seriously the well-being of humans, animals and the environment.

She would also like to see more laws and regulations, and along with that, enforcement around exotic animal ownership and treatment.

“Many kinds of animal cruelty and quiet, ubiquitous harm are perfectly legal and deemed normal or necessary,” she says.


Brock University Associate Professor and Chair of Labour Studies Kendra Coulter, Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, is available for phone and video interviews.


For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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Brock prof says back-to-basics approach can promote sustainability, curb boredom

Mon, 2020-04-06 12:11

MEDIA RELEASE: 6 April 2020 – R0061


As physical distancing measures continue and more people are forced to stay home, now is a great time to go back to basics, says Brock University Professor Liette Vasseur.


“Many people are living simpler lives and focusing more on necessities during this time, which provides us with a unique opportunity to closely assess our consumption patterns and ecological footprints,” she says. “While the current limitations will not be in place forever, we can use this time to assess what is critically important to our daily lives and what, ultimately, we can live without or do differently when things start to return to normal. This can help reduce waste and lessen our impact on the planet in the future.”


People can also do more than they think — and with less — during this unusual time, Vasseur points out. She believes many people have either abandoned or never learned traditional skills such as sewing or gardening because it was never a necessity or came with a time commitment.


“Engaging in these simple and practical hobbies can help you to stay busy, connect more deeply with nature and your surroundings, and give a boost to your mental health,” she says.


Home gardening is a relatively inexpensive, educational and practical hobby that the household can do together. For families with kids, it’s also a great way to keep the little ones entertained while learning some basics about natural systems and sharpening math and science skills.


“Gardening allows you to learn about different growing seasons, what grows well in Canada and what is needed to sustain their growth,” Vasseur says. “It also teaches you what it takes to grow the food we eat every day.”


The activity isn’t restricted to those with large backyards or access to expensive equipment, either.


“Even someone in an apartment with a small balcony or a spot next to a window with lots of natural light can grow their own plants,” she says. “You can reuse some of the things you already have at home, such as poking a few holes in the bottom of an old yogurt container and then adding some soil and the seeds of your choice.”


Vasseur suggests starting off slow with a few easy-to-care-for varieties at first, such as radishes or living lettuce. She also encourages people to apply the knowledge gained about plant life cycles while gardening to contribute to citizen science initiatives like PlantWatch in the future.


Liette Vasseur, Brock University Professor of Biological Sciences and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, is available for interview requests.


For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, or 905-347-1970

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MPs should consider online voting during COVID-19 pandemic, says Brock researcher

Fri, 2020-04-03 13:05

MEDIA RELEASE: 3 April 2020 – R0060

Online voting is entirely possible in parliamentary settings, according to Brock University Assistant Professor of Political Science Nicole Goodman.

Goodman and her research partner, Aleksander Essex, Associate Professor of Software Engineering at Western University, recently wrote in Policy Options that “even institutions steeped in tradition must consider technology” and asserted that “a secure, remote voting solution for online voting is viable.”

On April 1, The Hill Times reported that while some members of parliament (MPs) believe that the country is lagging in this area and due for reform, as evidenced by the difficulties created by the current COVID-19 crisis, other MPs are reluctant to entertain the possibility of changing procedures and would not consider debating the topic unless the suspension of parliament is required to last into the fall.

Goodman and Essex contend that while the European Union’s recent decision to move to email voting is not without its problems, a more thoughtful and permanent solution is available to members of Canadian parliament for three reasons:

  • Parliamentary votes are part of the public record, and therefore easily verified.
  • The cybersecurity infrastructure needed to protect electronic information is readily available.
  • With specific training, MPs can ensure that their own votes are correctly recorded.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed limits on legislative democracy to ensure the safety of MPs, but technology can provide a solution that will allow MPs to continue to vote on bills and also promote enhanced representation of members in votes,” says Goodman.

While online voting doesn’t need to happen all the time, and it doesn’t replace parliamentary debate, she says “it is a solution to the current situation wherein MPs can continue to social distance at their homes while passing necessary emergency measures.”

Findings from Goodman’s research have been presented in testimony to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly (Ontario) and the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. She is a member of the advisory board of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and the director of the Centre for e-Democracy.

Brock University Assistant Professor of Political Science Nicole Goodman is available for interviews through email

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, or 905-347-1970

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Quality time, structure important for families during COVID-19 pandemic, says Brock researcher

Thu, 2020-04-02 12:52

MEDIA RELEASE: 2 April 2020 – R0059

One of the many challenges facing families due to the COVID-19 pandemic is finding new ways of living together while letting go of old expectations.

Brock University Associate Professor of Sport Management Dawn Trussell says one solution is to set a structured schedule and rethink recreation and sport.

“There is an important opportunity to strengthen familial bonds and create a sense of unity,” says Trussell. “Research shows us that families need a sense of familiarity and stability in their lives; these experiences can foster feelings of family closeness.”

Trussell recommends planning a consistent hour or two every day that all family members can look forward to. She suggests the time being low-cost, home-based leisure activities that align with individual interests and require little planning, such as board games, a game of soccer in the yard or reading together.

Earlier this week, the Ontario government announced it was extending the provincial state of emergency for at least another two weeks. The new order closed all outdoor recreational amenities and public facilities, such as sports fields, playgrounds and parks. Additionally, schools across the province are now closed until at least May 4, though that could be extended further.

“For parents in particular, creating a consistent strategy is essential as children look for structure,” says Trussell. “Families are a primary source of companionship and gratification. Now more than ever, families are the primary pillar of support as people are instructed to ‘go home and stay home.’”

Amid growing pandemic fears and restrictions, Trussell affirms when families spend quality ‘play’ time together, it can build and strengthen the family unit which, in turn, may alleviate stress.

She also notes that too much time together isn’t necessarily ideal, especially for parents working from home full-time or essential workers who still must leave their house for work.

She urges parents to practise self-care, as research suggests that parents, especially mothers, often sacrifice their own leisure in support of their children.

“Rather than thinking you have to be together all the time, recognize that short, scheduled moments in a day are more meaningful for everyone,” says Trussell, a family of two elementary school-aged daughters. “Prioritizing and scheduling even a short amount of time for yourself will help you navigate this difficult time and contribute to the collective well-being of the family unit.”

For families on the COVID-19 frontline or who are just seeing their children through a video camera, Trussell emphasizes this consistent time of scheduled connection may provide an important sense of togetherness, even if online.

“The COVID-19 restrictions can still provide us with the opportunity to reconnect and strengthen our relationships and communication among family members through emails, letters, phone calls and social media,” she says.

Brock University Associate Professor of Sport Management Dawn Trussell is available for phone and video interview requests.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, or 905-347-1970

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University sends its supplies to Niagara’s front-line workers

Wed, 2020-04-01 09:27

MEDIA RELEASE: 1 April 2020 – R0057

Brock University — Communications & Public Affairs

Research labs across Brock University have emptied their supply rooms to help the people who are leading Niagara’s fight against COVID-19.

Thousands of gloves, hundreds of lab coats and goggles, and cartons of face masks were loaded into a truck on Tuesday, March 31, and sent to Niagara Health, who will distribute it to front-line health workers at the region’s hospitals.

It was the result of a campus-wide response to the request for much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for Niagara’s health-care providers.

“A lot of it is people feel the need to be part of the solution and do something,” said Dawn Zinga, Brock’s Acting Associate Vice-President, Research, who was tasked with heading up the University’s response to the call.

Brock’s Vice-President, Research, Tim Kenyon, said the University is doing what it can to support the Niagara region through the pandemic.

“As a research institution, we’re obviously very fortunate to have the materials on hand to be able to do this,” said Kenyon. “We are the community’s university, and the community needs these resources. They need them right now.”

The PPE being donated came from a wide range of faculties and departments such as research labs and services, teaching labs, science stores, the electronics shop, and the Campus Store.

“We are extremely grateful to Brock University for this remarkable show of support and generosity,” said Niagara Health President Lynn Guerriero. “We have always valued our strong partnership with Brock University, and this is another example of that. These donations will help as our health-care team responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In order to limit the risk to front-line staff, much care was taken around how many people were handling the goods and to keep everything in their exterior packaging.

“It’s all about controlling the exposure to the supplies,” said Zinga. “It has been noticeable how conscious people are in not affecting those supplies because the last thing you want to do is cause more risk.”

Zinga thanked everyone involved in the collection and transfer of the PPE, including everyone who identified and provided equipment and those involved in handing the gear over such as Campus Security, Custodial, Facilities Management and others.

“We’re lucky in that we can work remotely, but those medical professionals in front-line roles can’t do that,” she said. “People want to support them and recognize the great work they’re doing out there and the risk they’re taking in doing that.”

Roger Ali, President and CEO of the Niagara Health Foundation said he was “deeply grateful for the support.”

“We are so grateful for the community leadership of Brock University and their dedicated staff and students,” he said. “It is at times like this that Niagara is so fortunate to have a world-class institution stepping up to supply our front-line heroes with the critical protective equipment they need. These items will truly support the health-care professionals as they treat our friends, neighbours and loved ones.”

The Niagara Health Foundation is taking the lead on securing protective equipment and raising funds to purchase additional urgently needed equipment.

Guerriero said “it’s inspiring to see how the Niagara community is pulling together in so many different ways to support each other. A challenging time is bringing out the best in everyone.”

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, or 905-347-1970

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Niagara community encouraged to contribute to Brock’s COVID-19 archive

Mon, 2020-03-30 15:33

MEDIA RELEASE: 30 March 2020 – R0056

From bare grocery store shelves to playgrounds with warning signs, workplace and school closures, and unlimited social media and news content about COVID-19, it’s hard not to feel the impact of the pandemic.

Brock University’s Archives and Special Collections and Digital Scholarship Lab have created a website to gather and preserve photos, text, video and other forms of capturing the experience of living in the Niagara region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the near and far future, students, researchers, authors and other curious folks will be looking for such materials to retell the history of this challenging time,” said David Sharron, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the University’s James A. Gibson Library. “It was recently the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu, and people relied on our archives to see what Niagara did in 1918. We want to capture the history of COVID-19 as it’s happening.”

Sharron says inviting the Niagara community to contribute their materials to the archives will allow for more organic, accurate history.

“Archives usually receive historical documentation years after something has happened, but doing it in the moment allows primary reaction to be genuine and truly historic,” said Sharron. “It allows people to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences in real-time, and in a novel way.”

He adds that giving people a platform to share their experiences while also learning about the experiences of others can allow those feeling isolated to feel less alone.

Tim Ribaric, Acting Head, Digital Scholarship Lab, has been leading the technical side of the website

“We have an open access platform at Brock called Omeka, which is an exhibit platform that allows us to showcase digitized materials,” said Ribaric. “You take that history and information and retain them for people who want to do research about how things such as normal everyday life felt for people in the moment.”

A couple of key, recent examples in the Brock archives from people who self-submitted are the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in 2011 and the Ferguson Unrest protests and riots in 2014.

“I see people posting on social media every day about what they’re thinking and feeling,” said Sharron. “It’s front and centre on our minds. To capture these raw emotions is more telling than writing this months later when we polish our thoughts. How we’re living right now is true to history.”

There are two ways to contribute to the project.


David Sharron, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Brock University’s James A. Gibson Library is available for phone and video interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-347-1970

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Brock expert believes pandemic is being used to further complicate border issues

Mon, 2020-03-30 14:26

MEDIA RELEASE: 30 March 2020 – R0055

An instructor in Brock University’s Centre for Canadian Studies believes the U.S. is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to strong-arm Canada.

Ibrahim Berrada, who teaches Canadian Studies at Brock and is a former staffer on Parliament Hill, says President Donald Trump’s threat of a military presence along the U.S./Canada border is a heavy-handed response to illegal border crossings.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would no longer accept asylum seekers during the pandemic, instead sending them back to their country of origin.

“This is a huge reversal from the approach adopted in the past,” says Berrada, who spent seven years working with different members of Parliament on various national and international portfolios. “It is too early to tell whether Canada will reverse this policy after the crisis, but it is unlikely, pending bilateral border negotiations.”

The decision, he notes, goes against several United Nations conventions, in particular the 1951 Convention on Status of Refugees, which has been ratified by Canada. Returning asylum seekers may also be difficult as many international flights remain grounded.

The Canada/U.S. border is governed by a Safe Third Country Agreement, meaning that if a refugee claimant enters the U.S., they can’t claim asylum in Canada since the U.S. is deemed a safe country. Refugees must claim asylum in the first safe country they land in.

“The issue remains whether asylum seekers will be returned to an unsafe country, violating international refugee laws,” says Berrada.

Trump is using the pandemic situation to enforce policies that would otherwise be shelved, Berrada says. Any changes to border crossing protocols require calm and composed negotiations.

“Strong-arming Canada into accepting a proposal during this pandemic is inappropriate,” he says. “It devalues Canadian-American relations and threatens their stability.”

While Berrada is confident current restrictions on travel between Canada and the U.S. will eventually be removed, he warns that U.S. plans to militarize the border will possibly continue if negotiations aren’t fruitful. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s position as Canada’s chief negotiator is a sign that Canada will not take the issue lightly.

“Canadians should be wary about the possibility of a lingering military presence that may stretch beyond the pandemic,” says Berrada.

The U.S. military has no domestic policing capabilities and can only serve as a support force within American borders.

“Donald Trump is pulling out all the cards in an attempt to have a policy objective implemented and to be seen as a ‘tough on immigration’ leader prior to the fall election,” says Berrada.


Ibrahim Berrada, Instructor with Brock’s Centre for Canadian Studies, is available for phone and video interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-347-1970

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Brock gearing up to contribute to COVID-19 response

Fri, 2020-03-27 13:00

MEDIA RELEASE: 27 March 2020 – R0054

Brock University’s research community is stepping up to contribute supplies, facilities and expertise to Canada’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brock has made available supplies of gloves, masks and chemicals to Niagara Public Health, and researchers are also discussing ways to use the University’s Level 3 containment laboratory (CL3).

The Canadian government has already approved Brock’s CL3 lab to be used for COVID-19 research.

“We’re taking a range of steps to prepare for requests that might emerge for research and testing,” says Vice-President Research, Tim Kenyon. “We have a wide variety of expertise and facilities here that can be deployed in the greater fight against this virus.”

Brock’s Office of Research Services has put out a call for researchers to submit research proposals in response to the provincial government’s COVID-19 portal, which was posted Thursday, March 26.

Regarding the CL3 facility, Biological Safety Levels in a lab are ranked from one to four depending on the potential threat of organisms or agents being studied. The labs have increasing protection levels.

Level 3 enables Professor of Biology Fiona Hunter to study the Zika and West Nile viruses, but she and her students are willing to put those studies on hold temporarily should the facility be required for research on the COVID-19-causing virus, called SARS-CoV-2.

Brock also has several Level 2 laboratories that can potentially support a scale-up of COVID-19 testing if demand from Public Health rises. Immunologist and Associate Professor of Health Sciences Adam MacNeil says his lab has the equipment to do this, but needs critical testing materials that are in high-demand globally.

A potential local source has emerged in Norgen Biotek, a company that is working with the University on producing COVID-19 test kits.

“Members of my team would be happy to help at locations outside of Brock as much as here at Brock,” says MacNeil. “They have critical skills that are useful right now, and that realization – within the developing crisis — has empowered them.”

“As well, we are pursuing institutional steps to secure the appropriate license modifications permitting work with SARS-CoV-2, and to modify and upgrade the facilities themselves as needed,” says Kenyon.

Beyond the biological laboratories is a pool of expertise that can address a wide variety of facets of the unfolding pandemic, including financial data analysis, risk management and children’s mental health.

Kenyon continues to receive expressions of interest from across the research community at Brock in response to the pandemic.

“We continue to explore ways to support innovative research projects that can help in the fight against this pandemic,” he says.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, or 905-347-1970

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Digital vigilance critical as more employees work from home, says Brock expert

Thu, 2020-03-26 15:52

MEDIA RELEASE: 26 March 2020 – R0053

With work routines changing and far more people working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, computer users need to be vigilant to protect our digital infrastructure, advises a Brock University professor.

“We will be increasingly subject to a range of cybersecurity threats as our attention is placed on fighting COVID-19,” says Aaron Mauro, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Centre for Digital Humanities. “We’re seeing tremendous sums of money being spent by governments, which will be a target for hackers interested in using ransomware attacks, for example.”

Ransomware attackers use phishing scams to access an organization’s computer system and to install software that locks legitimate users out of the system by encrypting files. The attackers then demand financial payment to restore access.

The U.K.’s National Health Service was a notable victim of a ransomware attack in May 2017, locking staff out of 200,000 computers. The attack and its aftermath are estimated to have cost the Health Service more than $120 million.

In more recent months, ransomware attacks have targeted municipalities in Johannesburg, Baltimore, Albany and Atlanta.

Mauro worries hospitals and other critical infrastructure may be targeted by cyber attacks during the peak pandemic crisis, when government and public health officials are already exhausted.

“A targeted email sent to several high-level hospital or public health officials has the potential to grant high level access to computer systems and potentially cripple some portion of the digital infrastructure that supports our healthcare system,” he says.

Mauro advises everyone to be extra cautious.

“Check the sender’s email carefully,” he says. “They may look legitimate and even differ by only a few characters. If you are sent a link or a suspicious file, avoid opening it if at all possible.”

Users should never enter their login credentials in an unfamiliar site and should use second-factor authentication when available. If asked to login to a site, users should navigate to the site themselves, rather than follow a potentially suspicious link in an email.

“We all need to think like a cybersecurity professional to avoid compromising our sensitive digital infrastructure that we will depend upon in the coming months,” says Mauro.

Aaron Mauro, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Centre for Digital Humanities is available to the media for phone and Skype/Facetime interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-347-1970 

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Brock Makerspace producing face shields for local health-care workers

Thu, 2020-03-26 14:51

MEDIA RELEASE: 26 March 2020 – R0052

Even before the province officially came asking for help, Tabitha Lewis was on board.

As co-ordinator of the Brock University Library’s Makerspace, which is chock full of high-tech tools such as 3D printers, scanners and laser cutters, Lewis knew the resources she oversees could be put to good use in the fight against COVID-19.

“I had heard about a group in Waterloo donating prints to the local hospitals so I presented it to the Makerspace team to figure out if it was possible here and what angle we could take,” said Lewis.

She also took it to University Librarian Mark Robertson and Head of Library Systems and Technology Jonathan Younker, and they agreed that it was a project worth getting involved in.

“The ethos in the Library’s Makerspace has always been to find creative ways to solve interesting problems, and this is no different,” Younker said. “Instead of helping with curricular and extra-curricular creative projects, we have an opportunity to leverage the skills of Makerspace staff and the use of Makerspace prototyping equipment to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19, and to help those on the front-lines.”

While Younker set about assessing the need and workflow with Niagara health officials, Lewis used public access design files being shared around the world for a quick-to-print face shield holder.

Czech 3D printer manufacturer Prusa has been continually updating an open-source design file that can be printed by anyone with any brand of 3D printer. The printers are used to manufacturer a head mount to which a thin plastic face shield is then attached. A piece of elastic fabric also attaches to it to go around the head. The face shields are used by health-care workers as an extra layer of protection in front of eye protection and face masks. They’re also being used by drive-thru workers.

On Wednesday, the Brock Library got the green light from Public Health to move forward with the project, so Lewis started ordering some of the required materials.

Unfortunately for sanitary reasons, the shields can be used by one person over the course of a day, but are then mostly being thrown out. However, the material being used to print the face shield mounts is polylactic acid, which is a biodegradable, corn-based plastic.

The Makerspace, which is part of the Brock LINC, located inside the new Rankin Family Pavilion, has five 3D printers — two of which can print two of the face shields at a time and three of which can print singles. It takes about two hours to print each unit.

“Once we’re up and running, I’m estimating we could get around 20 face shields printed each day,” said Lewis. “We’re also looking at what other departments around the University have 3D printers so that we can all work together to be as successful as possible.”

Younker said the first round of shields will be going to front-line workers with Niagara EMS.

The biggest challenge facing the project currently is trying to get the necessary supplies.

Lewis has also put together a Microsoft Teams group for people who either have access to 3D printers or who want to get involved in some way.

“I think everyone is feeling isolated and powerless in this situation, so being able to help our community’s health-care workers in this way is so important and necessary,” Younker said.

For more information about getting involved, contact Lewis at

Makerspace Co-ordinator Tabitha Lewis and Head of Library Systems and Technology Jonathan Younker are available for media interviews about the project.


For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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International Cool Climate Wine Symposium postponed to 2021

Wed, 2020-03-25 15:39

MEDIA RELEASE: 25 March 2020 – R0051

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant uncertainty and risk to public health around the globe, the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS) 2020 Advisory Organizing Committee has made the decision to postpone its upcoming conference until 2021.

The ICCWS 2020, which was slated to take place this July, will now be held at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada from July 25 to 29, 2021. The Symposium is being organized by Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) alongside its research and industry partners across the country.

This difficult decision was made after careful evaluation of all currently available information from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Niagara Region Public Health, and the World Health Organization.

The province of Ontario, where the conference was scheduled to be held, is currently operating under a state of emergency. That, combined with global travel restrictions and other rapidly evolving COVID-19 response measures, led the committee to determine that postponing the ICCWS is in the best interest of all attendees, partners, sponsors and organizers.

“With the great degree of uncertainty that lies ahead, we believe postponing the conference is the best option to ensure a safe and successful event for all involved,” said CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis, Chair of the ICCWS 2020 Advisory Organizing Committee. “While we are disappointed we will not be able to come together to celebrate innovations and advances in cool climate grape, wine and business research this year, we place everyone’s health, safety and well-being above all else. We look forward to showcasing our Canadian grape and wine industry to the world when we host ICCWS in July 2021.”

All registered delegates, invited speakers, sponsors and tradeshow exhibitors will be contacted directly in the coming days with more information. All payments made for conference registration, sponsorships and trade show booths will be honoured and applied to the 2021 date. Refunds will be issued to those who do not want payments used for the rescheduled date.

“We appreciate your ongoing support in this extremely difficult time and wish you all the very best in the weeks and months to come,” said Inglis.

For further updates as they become available, please visit the ICCWS website.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Sarah Ackles, Marketing & Communications Officer, Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University, 647-746-4453

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-347-1970

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Getting outside is good for physical and mental health, say Brock experts

Wed, 2020-03-25 11:08

MEDIA RELEASE: 25 March 2020 – R0050

In light of recent park closures by conservation authorities and municipalities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, people need to be creative in how they connect with nature, says Kyle Rich, Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Brock University.

Connecting with nature could include activities like gardening, strolling around the block or walking in a neighbourhood park.

“Research shows that exercising outdoors and even just being outdoors, where you’re exposed to natural products like wood, flowers or plants, stimulates physiological responses in our body,” says Rich.

Even better, exposure to the outdoors has tangible positive mental health outcomes.

“It’s important to consider the physiological and mental health benefits of being outdoors and how to integrate that into your plans when you can’t go to the gym or go out with friends to social events like you normally do,” says Rich.

Even having plants or pets inside the house makes a difference, he adds.

When making plans to be outside, Rich stresses the need to avoid touching surfaces and follow physical distancing and other protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Appreciate what we do have access to,” he says. “If you have a small backyard or a balcony, take the time to use it and make the best of it. You could even take your home workout to the front porch.”

Kyle is co-author of the recent policy brief “Mood Walks: The role of parks and recreation in mental health promotion” from Brock’s Niagara Community Observatory, co-authored by Martha Barnes, Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

This work builds on earlier Brock research conducted at the Glenridge Quarry Naturalization Site in St. Catharines which found walking in a natural setting improves mood more so than in urban environments.

Cheryl McCormick, Professor of Psychology and Director of Brock’s Centre for Neuroscience, oversaw the research conducted by then-PhD student Shawn Geniole.

“There are substantial health benefits from walking, and there is increasing evidence that walks in nature are particularly beneficial,” she says. “Results from our well-controlled study were that taking a walk improved mood and decreased stress hormone concentrations, with bigger benefits in greener, natural spaces than in less-green, urban spaces.”


Brock professors Kyle Rich and Cheryl McCormick are available for interviews through phone, video and email.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Online study examines how parents are talking to kids about COVID-19

Tue, 2020-03-24 16:00

MEDIA RELEASE: 24 March 2020 – R0049

A Brock University researcher wants to hear from parents or guardians of children about how they are talking about the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Angela Evans, Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Psychology, is part of a research team led by Lindsay Malloy of Ontario Tech University that has quickly mobilized to investigate how parents are helping children understand the novel coronavirus outbreak in a study entitled, “Coronavirus: Parent-Child Conversations and Children’s Reactions to the Pandemic.”

“We are examining how parents talk to their children about coronavirus and how parents and children are thinking, feeling and behaving in relation to it,” says Evans,

Using an online survey that takes about 30 minutes to complete, parents are asked to report how they are talking to their children about COVID-19, as well as their own thoughts and feelings about the pandemic.

Parents are, as Evans points out, “important sources of information and emotional support for children,” especially when schools are closed and both children and parents are encouraged to stay at home.

However, facing a situation unlike anything they have previously experienced, families are in uncharted waters as they determine how best to help children process information.

“This first survey will give us insights into how parents are initially discussing the pandemic with children,” says Evans, who credits support from Brock’s Research Ethics Board staff and from Ontario Tech University with enabling the team to mount the study so quickly while conversations are still happening.

Families who participate in the initial online survey will also be asked to complete some weekly surveys and an additional survey in six months. Once the pandemic has run its course and physical distancing is no longer required, some families will be invited to Evans’s Social Cognitive lab at Brock or the Development, Context and Communication Lab at Ontario Tech so  the research team can hear from children directly.

Parents of children between the ages of five and 17 interested in participating should complete the first survey by Friday, March 27. The first 1,000 participants will receive a $5 Amazon gift card, and all participants will be entered into a draw for a $100 Amazon gift card.

The research team, which broadly focuses on how youth report their experiences and the influence of parents and caregivers, is eager to capture data now to help inform parents in similar situations in the future.

“We realize this is a challenging time for many, but we hope that people may feel like they are contributing in a positive way by completing this 30-minute survey,” says Evans.

Angela Evans, Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Psychology, is available for phone and Skype/Facetime interviews about the research.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being supporting members virtually

Tue, 2020-03-24 08:57

MEDIA RELEASE: 24 March 2020 – R0048

Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy and boosting immunity, but doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge — especially for older adults and high-risk groups.

In response, the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being is using social media and online tools to keep members engaged and active.

“The Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being is a social hub for many of our members,” says Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the SeniorFit program Kimberley Gammage. “It’s important to us that our community doesn’t feel isolated and we are taking steps to contribute to the social, mental and physical health of our members.”

To assist members with their health and fitness goals, Centre staff are posting daily Home Workouts which do not require exercise equipment on their public Facebook page and have launched a new Brock webpage to provide information and important safety tips.

“We’re committed to providing our members with continual comprehensive service,” says Department of Health Sciences Chair and Centre Director Deborah O’Leary. “Our team is dedicated to providing a virtual, communal environment so that our members do not feel socially isolated and continue to partake in a healthy lifestyle.”

The Centre membership is comprised of older adults, individuals with cardiovascular disease or risk factors and individuals with spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or amputations.

Each daily home workout posted on Facebook and the Brock webpage will have two options to allow individuals to make modifications based on their own unique needs, including seated exercises.

“Despite our best efforts, the reality is some of our members with disability may not be independent enough to take advantage of the online exercise options,” explains Kinesiology Professor and Director of Power Cord, David Ditor. “For members in our wheelchair accessible exercise program, a phone call during this period can help them to fight off loneliness and isolation. We plan to reach out to our members and let them know we’re thinking about them.”

Another facet of the Brock community being engaged online are 30 Pelham residents, ranging in age from 59 to 91, who were a part of a 12-week functional exercise program at the Meridian Community Centre. Through a formal partnership with the Town of Pelham, FIT with Brock, a program of circuit classes had been running three times a week since January, and ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the shut-down, Centre Co-ordinator Katherine Crockett has been reaching out via email to provide members with home workouts and online video resources.

The Centre team is currently looking into the feasibility of running virtual fitness classes in real-time so all members can continue their exercise and social interactions from home.

For more information and updates on these initiatives, please visit the Home Workouts webpage on the Brock-Niagara Centre for Health and Well-Being website or the Centre’s public Facebook page.


For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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Canadian boycott of Tokyo games will influence others to do the same: Brock profs

Mon, 2020-03-23 11:49

MEDIA RELEASE: 23 March 2020 – R0047

With Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic committees deciding not to send athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games if they proceed as scheduled, Assistant Professor of Sport Management Michael Naraine and Associate Professor of Sport Management Julie Stevens say Canada has become a leader for other countries to make the same decision.

“It’s an unprecedented situation,” says Naraine. “Team Canada is taking the lead on the international Olympic movement stage. In the last decade specifically, Canada has been one of the key leaders in the Olympic space, not only for athletes and development, but also in providing for other stakeholders as well. The decisions in the last 24 hours signals the progressiveness of the Canadian team.”

Stevens says the decision fell in line with larger efforts being undertaken to ensure the safety of Canadians abroad.

“The Canadian government is trying to bring Canadians home,” says Stevens, who also serves as Director of Brock’s Centre for Sport Capacity. “It is contradictory to also plan to send Canadians abroad when this crisis is happening. Values of health, safety and collective global good are paramount.”

Naraine says the decision also provides a clearer picture for Canadian athletes who have been unsure of how things might proceed during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Both the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees have done their due diligence and there is more clarity for the athletes,” he says. “This removes additional stress from the athletes and provides some structure to them during this time.”

Naraine believes Canada’s decision will be the first of many similar moves around the world.

“You will see that the games are about to be postponed because of the leadership of Team Canada,” he says. “It takes one domino to fall and others will follow. Once Team USA and Team Great Britain announce their decisions, that’s game over. Given what’s happening in Europe, those teams will also follow along.”

Stevens says pressure put on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by national committees is the only way the dates of the games could be changed.

“The IOC answers to no entity,” she says. “It has members — such as National Olympic Committees (NOCs) — who are the key actors who can generate any pressure. If the NOCs stand together, then no one is left out as the only NOC that didn’t participate and put its athletes at a disadvantage. An ‘all stand together approach’ is the best way to move forward.”

Stevens also highlights the need for a proactive and decisive approach.

“An IOC decision to reschedule the games sooner rather than later will ensure plans can be adjusted within a manageable time frame rather than under crisis,” she says. “In this way, a balance among all stakeholders, especially the athletes, can be reached.”

Though some have proposed only postponing the games a few months, Naraine says a delay of one year is better for athletes.

“The reason we are where we are is that it essentially maintains the athletes’ training cycles. If they were postponed until January, it would affect an athlete’s training cycle much more.”

With athletes’ well-being top of mind, Naraine says there are also significant implications for the many sponsors of the games, given that they only take place every other year.

“It’s a difficult business proposition when you only have one activity every two years,” he says. “It’s far easier for professional leagues to miss a few games when they can still salvage their season. The Olympics has made its name as a special event, when you bring the world together. As a result, you have also sold your sponsors on being exclusive and having all eyes on you.”


Brock University Sport Management Professors Julie Stevens and Michael Naraine are available for interviews over the phone or via Skype/Facetime.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University or 905-347-1970

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Significant parts of Brock University operation to work off-site starting Tuesday, March 17

Mon, 2020-03-16 17:01

MEDIA RELEASE: 16 March 2020 – R0046

With the COVID-19 pandemic quickly evolving and the need for rapid and dramatic steps in Ontario and across the country, Brock is transitioning to a modified operational model that will see significant parts of the University working from remote locations.

The model will focus on an on-site/off-site model, where some staff will work on-site in a significantly modified schedule and most other faculty and staff will work remotely off-site, including at home.

While the Brock campuses in St. Catharines must remain open, it is important to ensure that steps are taken so that the University is doing its part to mitigate risk, encourage social distancing and protect the health and wellbeing of faculty, staff, students and the community.

Effective Tuesday, March 17, the following on-site services will be operating at reduced staffing levels. Minimal on-site staffing will be scheduled to prioritize services and supervisors will be initiating reduced working schedules for the following on-site services:

  • Campus Security
  • Centre for Pedagogical Innovation
  • Facilities Management (maintenance, trades and custodial services)
  • Food Services
  • Graduate Studies
  • Information Technology Services
  • James A. Gibson Library (First floor only)
  • Mail Services
  • President’s, Vice-President’s and Deans’ Offices
  • Registrar’s Office
  • Research Enterprise
  • Residences
  • Student Health Services

Services and departments not listed will be moving to full off-site campus operations and supervisors will be directing staff to work remotely from home. For services not listed above, there may be times supervisors will request employees to come to campus for specific duties. The aim will be to keep these exceptions to a minimum.

Given the evolving situation, please note that periodic updates will be provided which may also result in changes in the schedules and activities of these services.

Additionally, the Hamilton campus, as well as all athletic and recreational facilities in Brock’s Walker Sports Complex will be closed.

Brock also announced Monday its student residences will be closing this week, and all remaining students, excluding those with exceptional circumstances, will be required to move out by 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 19. The only exception to this will be students who can demonstrate they have no other alternatives for accommodation, such as international students unable to return home.

This elevated measure is part of the University’s moves to support urgent Public Health and Government directives to avoid all situations where groups of people can congregate, as part of a national effort to slow the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

With in-person classes and exams suspended for the remainder of the term, students have no cause to remain on campus for academic purposes.

Brock University is committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of its students, faculty and staff, and it is imperative to have students avoid communal living situations as well as avoid potential transmission settings both on and off campus.

For a full list of FAQs and the latest updates on Brock’s COVID-19 response, please click here.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio. 

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Brock’s Cuvée 2020 to be cancelled

Mon, 2020-03-16 17:00

MEDIA RELEASE: 13 March 2020 – R0045

As Brock continues to follow the advice of public health experts on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic at the regional, provincial and national level, the University announced it is suspending all events through June 1, including Cuvée 2020, which was set to take place on Saturday, April 25.

This decision was made to protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as well as the greater community, including guests and partners of Cuvée.

“The health and safety of our guests, valued partners and organizers is of the upmost importance and is always our first priority,” said Cuvée Manager Barb Tatarnic. “Cuvée is a celebrated showcase of our grape and wine industry that we look forward to hosting each year, and while the decision to cancel the event was difficult one, it was necessary in order to ensure the wellbeing of all members of the public.”

The Cuvée team will be reaching out to its partners and ticket holders in the coming days.

“Cuvée has become not only one of the largest and most prestigious celebrations of Ontario VQA wine, but a strong supporter of scholarships that drive important research initiatives for the local grape and wine industry,” said CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis. “We thank everyone for their continued support and look forward to raising a glass with everyone at Cuvée 2021.”

Please watch for further information, including a date announcement for Cuvée 2021.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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Brock suspending face-to-face classes and moving toward alternative forms of delivery

Mon, 2020-03-16 16:59

MEDIA RELEASE: 13 March 2020 – R0044

Brock University is suspending face-to-face classes and exams for the rest of this academic term and is working on a plan to move to alternative forms of class and exam delivery, including online. The academic term is not at risk.

In-person classes, labs, seminars and exams, as well as all online courses, will be suspended as of 5 p.m. on Friday, March 13.

Faculty members will be asked for alternatives for course delivery, and the goal will be to resume virtual classes the week of Monday, March 23 for those instructors who are able to mount their classes in a virtual environment.

The University will encourage faculty members to consider re-distributing the assessment for a course based on the material and work already completed.

This decision provides time for faculty to move final exams to an alternative format, including take-home and virtual exams, which would run during the regularly scheduled exam period from April 6 to April 23.

Instructors of Spring/Summer Term courses can begin planning for alternate modes of delivery prior to the start of classes on May 4, should they become necessary.

The University campuses in St. Catharines and Hamilton will remain open and operational and staff are expected to attend work as scheduled. Researchers and grad students will have access to their labs. However, all members of the Brock community are encouraged to be mindful of health and well-being.

Brock’s on-campus residences will remain open. Students who are able to head home are encouraged to do so, but will still be expected to continue their studies online on March 23 for the remainder of Winter Term if course instructors decide to require it.

This follows an announcement on Thursday, March 12 that Brock was prohibiting all student, faculty and staff travel outside Canada that is not vital to the academic mission. This includes banning travel to academic conferences, meeting colleagues and collaborators, and attending professional development events and classes.

The University is also updating and clarifying its travel cancellation policies.

Where travel is allowed, Brock will continue to adhere to the travel advisories as issued by Global Affairs Canada.

Additionally, the University has cancelled all discretionary events and programming not required for academic courses or credit through June 1. This includes events such as March Break tours and Spring Open House, and other non-academic events organized by or hosted at Brock, or events organized by Brock but held off-site such as Cuvée and the Brock Sports Athletic Banquet. Events organized or hosted at Brock by third parties are also cancelled. All recreational programs are also cancelled.

University officials continue to closely monitor the situation locally, nationally and internationally. Brock staff are in regular contact with public health experts to ensure that we have current information about any risk levels in this community.

To help inform our responses and actions in this rapidly changing environment, Brock takes direction from health officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada and Niagara Region Public Health.

For more information on Brock University’s COVID-19 response, please visit our dedicated webpage that is updated regularly with the latest information available.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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