Return to in-person learning ‘too soon’ and lacking online options, say UVic students and faculty

Return to in-person learning 'too soon' and lacking online options, say UVic students and faculty

Despite many post-secondary institutions across the country announcing further delays in a return to in-person learning, the University of Victoria is continuing with its original schedule.

UVic classes will resume in-person learning on Monday.

“We have been getting a lot of emails of concern from faculty, many of whom feel it’s premature, that it’s too soon to return back to in-person classes,” said Lynne Marks, president of the University of Victoria Faculty Association.

In a recent informal poll, the UVic Faculty Association says three-quarters of its members feel like it’s too soon to return back to in-person learning, with the widespread transmission of Omicron and a large population of both staff and students who haven’t had booster shots yet.

READ MORE: B.C. strongly recommends post-secondary schools resume in-person learning in January

“As someone who is chronically ill, possibly immuno-compromised, still trying to get diagnosed, I’d like to avoid getting COVID,” said Anika Fairholm, a UVic student.

“Yet the instructors are returning back to in-person without adequate policies to ensure that students who are sick won’t be coming in. Some classrooms are being filled well beyond the capacities, with no opportunities for social distancing, and the university’s response to this is to say that if we don’t feel comfortable, we should just drop the class.”

Fairholm says she’s been left to decide between her education or her health, starting a petition online asking for UVic to mandate providing lecture materials online.

It’s something the Access 4 All campaign, a campaign calling for a hybrid learning option for students who don’t feel comfortable with in-person learning, has been calling for.

READ MORE: Group of UVic students concerned over return to in-person learning

“I think this is something universities should have been thinking about a long time ago. What I’m talking about – hybrid education, it’s not a new thing,” said Jonathan Granirer, co-chair for the Access 4 All campaign.

“We shouldn’t blame profs because they choose not to do hybrid education because it’s simply not their job. That’s the job of the university and the province to make sure their students are safe and have accessible education.”

UVic is providing some flexibility to staff who are sick or need to isolate. As for the students, UVic is encouraging professors to provide material online to students who are having to stay home when sick, but even that’s not guaranteed.

“Are you going to choose between are you going to fall behind in your courses, because there are no guaranteed supplements for the classes you miss or are you going to expose your classmates?” asked Granirer.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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