Letter to Lingnanians
01 June 2020
I hope this letter finds you well in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we enter the summer season, I am pleased to see that the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong has stabilised and, as a result, the normal operation of all University Departments/Units has fully resumed from 11 May 2020. While it remains unclear what the months ahead will bring and how long the pandemic is going to last, I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to all Lingnanians for the efforts they have made over the past few months. In particular, I want to thank our faculty and staff who have worked hard during the pandemic to support the operation of the University and implement various initiatives to ensure quality teaching and learning in the best interests of our students. I also wish to express my appreciation to all of our students for their understanding so that the University could successfully address the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Like other tertiary institutions across the world, the University has in the past months taken precautionary measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. Working together, we moved all classes online; adopted flexible work arrangements for our staff; stepped up health and safety measures on campus; rescheduled a number of University events and activities; and communicated with all members of the University as timely, clearly and consistently as possible. What is perhaps most important is that in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, we have largely followed our crisis management system that was established last year. Under the framework of our three-tier crisis management structure which consists of the Crisis Leadership Team, Crisis Management Team and Incident Response Teams, we have been working closely and tirelessly as a team to make decisions and formulate policies in response to changing circumstances. I am confident that, by officially promulgating the Crisis Management Plan in February and launching the Online Crisis Awareness Training in April as well as undertaking other crisis management training activities, members of the University will be more prepared to deal effectively with crises or incidents in the future.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is still evolving, its impact on the world’s higher education will be long-lasting. At Lingnan, we plan to maintain online teaching and learning even after face-to-face classes are resumed and continue to explore how online and offline teaching can be combined most effectively to enhance the quality of student learning. Undeniably, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the traditional concept of education, and it is time for us to reinvent university education. In this rapidly changing environment, we will need to harness the best educational technologies, improve faculty competence and inspire students’ creativity in order to adapt to a new paradigm of education. More than ever before, teaching and learning are not restricted to face-to-face interactions in the classrooms. Not long ago, I wrote a commentary and recorded a video regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Asian education. In the video (which can be viewed at https://youtu.be/K1Rz1TTleSY), I shared how the University adapted to changes brought on by the pandemic. Regardless of how the landscape of higher education may change, Lingnan will always strive to create the best learning environment for our students.
Apart from causing hundreds of thousands of deaths across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the biggest economic crisis in generations, casting a long shadow over the global economy beyond anybody’s expectation. Realising that our 2020 graduates will face exceptional challenges in their job search, the Vice-President and I have taken the lead to establish the “Support Fund for 2020 Graduates”, which is designed to assist our graduates in developing their careers and starting up businesses. Targeted to raise $5 million for the benefits of over 600 graduates, the Fund will be used to support graduates by providing them with different opportunities including graduate internships, skill enhancement and mentorship support, entrepreneurship and short-term employment opportunities as well as tuition waiver for postgraduate studies. I would like to invite all of you to join us in supporting this campaign for the benefits of our graduates. It is very important for all of us to show care and empathy to others as we travel together on the bumpy road to economic recovery in a world of great uncertainties.
In spite of the gloom and doom of the evolving global crisis, our spirits have been lifted by the result of the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2020. The University came second for “Quality Education” and excelled in the areas of “No Poverty” and “Decent Work and Economic Growth”, all of which are among the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. I am also pleased to know that our students and teachers have stayed connected with the local community and the outside world through active learning, research and service. To name just a few, nine of our students have recently been selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University (“CGI U”) annual meeting while one of our students was given an opportunity to converse with former US President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton during the meeting’s town hall question-and-answer session on how young people can work together to combat the complex health, economic, and social challenges that COVID-19 presents. To help the underprivileged households fight against COVID-19, a community project named “Project Ultra Violite” has been launched by the Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative to provide a free UV disinfection service targeting 1,000 local subdivided flats. These and many other impactful research projects, knowledge transfer activities and community services demonstrate our commitment to creating a better world and further exemplify our excellence.
Like all of you, I hope the pandemic will subside and life can return to normal very soon. I also understand that you may worry about the current situation and future development of Hong Kong but in any case, we need to remain positive, flexible and resilient. Please take good care of yourself and your loved ones, and try your best to help those in need in your community. Let us work together, and overcome the challenges during this turbulent time.
Leonard K Cheng