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Return to Class Update
Students deserve to feel safe on campus. I think this is something we can all agree on. We are about to welcome students back to the University of Calgary, this will include students entering their first year and second year who have yet to be on campus at all. We must make sure they feel safe and we must make sure that all students feel safe when they rejoin our campus community.
The SU, its students, and its staff are not medical experts. We must defer to the experts when it comes to safety protocols, but students deserve coherent and timely information about COVID-19 protocols on campus. I, and fellow SU executives, are hearing over and over from students that they are worried, anxious, and stressed about returning to campus.
Make no mistake, students want to come back. Students have missed out on so much of the university experience over the last year-and-a-half. Online education is no substitute for in-person learning. But students want, and deserve, to come back safely.
It’s concerning to me that in the survey recently released by the University of Calgary, 56% of those who responded are concerned they will get sick on campus and are concerned about spreading it to their families. In addition, the same number, 56% again, do not feel that sufficient health measures are in place on campus to keep them safe.
The new measures announced after the survey results came out do nothing to put fears to rest.
The SU has learned that professors can choose to switch their courses to online, if requested by a certain deadline. This flexibility was never afforded to students and that is concerning. Students deserve flexibility and accommodations to ensure they can complete their studies safely and not worry about getting sick while doing it.
The university’s move to allow professors to do courses online instead of in-person means that many students may have a different mix of online and in-person classes than they expected. They may have to take an online class on campus if that course is immediately after an in-person course, for example. This just adds to student anxiety.
If a student isn’t comfortable sitting in a 300-student lecture hall, they shouldn’t be forced to, nor should they have to drop the course or put their degree on hold. The university should step up with accommodations for students as well.
What makes all this even more disappointing is that the university has had eighteen months to plan for the return. We all knew that we would be returning to in-person learning at some point. So why are details still being worked out less than a month before the fall semester begins?
Rest assured the SU team is working hard to push the university to communicate clearly and effectively as well as to recognize the difficult position students are in due to their lack of real action.
Please continue to reach out to me and the SU executives with what would reduce your stress and anxiety about the return to class. We will pass these thoughts on directly to senior university officials.