University students in B.C. divided over return to in-person learning


Dozens of Simon Fraser University (SFU) students spent their Monday rallying at the Burnaby campus protesting the return to in-person learning at their school.

“In-person is amazing. You get to interact with your peers and stuff like that, but in the middle of a pandemic, I don’t know how much of a productive decision that is,” said SFU student Emmanuel Adegboyegi.

More than 4,000 students have also signed an online petition asking for distance education to continue at SFU for at least one more semester.

SFU is just one of a few institutions in the country that has opted to go back to face-to-face learning.

While the University of Victoria (UVic) has done the same, many students on the Island welcome the move to in-person schooling.

“I have way more motivation to do stuff at school than at home in my pyjamas,” laughed UVic student Paige Hart.

“I like it. The campus went from being really dead to being quite full, which I like to see. It came back to life,” said student Matisse Ward.

“I’m really happy to be back. I find it a lot easier to learn in-class because there’s more of a socialization aspect to it rather than just sitting at home on your computer,” added fellow student Paige Heintzman.

But not everyone agrees — student Sky Dragushan thinks the return to in-person classes is too soon.

“We should have online for a couple more weeks just to kind of assess because cases are still going up, majority of students in my age group haven’t had their booster shot,” she said.

“The university is not practicing social distancing in lecture halls I’m crammed in a 200-person lecture hall. No social distancing. I’m sitting right beside the next person,” she continued.

According to Island Health data obtained by CHEK News via a Freedom of Information request, there were 89 confirmed COVID-19 cases at post‐secondary institutions on Vancouver Island between August and November 2021.

Of the 89 cases recorded during that period, 33 of them were at Vancouver Island University — 25 at the Nanaimo campus and eight at the Cowichan campus in Duncan — and 28 cases at the University of Victoria. Five cases were also recorded at Camosun College’s Interurban campus.

While many UVic students are hopeful in-person classes will stay, some believe the university could easily switch back to online learning if cases spike again.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they went back. I’m kind of expecting like some sort of outbreak, especially with Omicron,” said student Owen Miller.

With the switch between online and in-person learning happening so swiftly and frequently, students on the Island are making the most of their time on-campus in case another last-minute change is made.

CHEK News reached out to Island Health requesting the total number of COVID-19 exposures at post-secondary institutions in the Island Health region for December 2021 but did not receive a response prior to deadline.

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Tahmina AzizTahmina Aziz

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