Advocacy Update – Return to Campus

August 23, 2021  |   Found in News

Advocacy Blog – Return to Campus

The SU executive and staff team have been working hard over the summer months to ensure a safe return to campus for all students. We know that students want to return to in-person learning but we need to make sure that it’s done safely and with the proper accommodations, flexibility, and supports in place.

Last week, the University announced plans for mandatory masking as well as testing for those who aren’t vaccinated. These are positive steps to keep our campus community safe, but the details are lacking.

Rest assured that our advocacy on the latest university announcement is ongoing, but the SU has been at the table to ensure that students are at the centre of the return to campus plan. Here are some of the things we have advocated on over the summer and where we’ve seen progress and some wins.

For class size information:

  • The university has committed to clearly advising students ahead of the fall semester on how they can check their class size when registering for in-person sections. Communication from the university early-on will allow students to make an informed decision about the classes they feel comfortable enrolling in. This information will also be provided in orientation content.

For study spaces on campus:

  • ICT 102 will be designated for students to use for online classes. This room was selected because it has good Wi-Fi access and charging stations. Access to this room means that students won’t have to leave campus to attend their online classes.
  • The university will also designate an additional room for online courses should ICT 102 be continually in use by students.
  • Students will be allowed to us empty classrooms and library spaces for this purpose as well.
  • The university is developing an interactive map for students to find spaces on campus to attend online courses.

For students who need accommodations or flexibility:

  • The university has committed to developing a centralized website where students can find information about COVID-related accommodations. These would come into play if, for example, you are required to self-isolate or you are immunocompromised. This website will include an interactive flowchart to direct students to the proper place to apply for accommodations.
  • The administration has increased resources for Teaching Assistant (TA) supports to be available in the fall semester to assist students who have to self-isolate.
  • The administration has committed to expanding the existing accommodations process to include COVID-19 specific considerations.
  • Students requiring long-term accommodations can fill out a COVID-19 accommodations request form.
  • Students requiring short term accommodations are encouraged to talk with their professors about academic supports in the class. Professors have been directed to take COVID-19 considerations into account for the fall semester.
  • The university committed to providing supports for students who need to self-isolate or quarantine and end up missing classes. This is ongoing.

For students living in residence:

  • Students will now be let out of their residence contracts later on than normal to accommodate the shift to online learning.
  • Should a student test positive, the university has set rooms aside for students to isolate.
  • The university has committed to providing additional wellness and mental health supports to residence students who have to self-isolate.
  • Residence students on meal plans will have be able to have their food delivered while they isolate.

This is not the end of the advocacy we are doing. We have brought forward other concerns that the university needs to work through. These include:

Discrepancy in course delivery formats: The SU has learned that some professors who are teaching in-person classes are also choosing to make an audio or video recording available to students who are uncomfortable attending in-person. This is great but this choice is being left up to individual professors. We feel this Information on the availability of lecture recordings should be made available to students when they enroll in the class or at least on the syllabus. We would also like to have this option made mandatory for all classes. We continue to meet resistance to these ideas but we will not stop pursuing it.

Rapid Testing: There have not yet been details provided on the frequency of rapid testing for those who aren’t vaccinated or refuse to disclose their status. There have not been details released on exactly what occurs when someone tests positive. These details must be clarified.