Letter to Members: Return to Campus Planning

Dear X University community members,

As many of you know, the X University Administration announced on December 19, 2021  that a full-return to campus for the Winter 2022 term will be postponed till January 31, 2022. On January 19, 2022 the University sent out notification that the University will begin a gradual return to campus on February 1, 2022 with a full return on February 28, 2022. We understand that the university community – students, staff and faculty – have been disappointed, discouraged, confused, and frustrated with the University Administration’s response to the Omicron surge and the return to campus planning. The Continuing Education Students’ Association of X University shares that frustration.

Continuing Education Students

To our members specifically, we want you to know that we continue to advocate that we are full members of the university community. We have asked repeatedly to the Administration to include Continuing Education specific language in their announcements rather than a blanket “all students” statement that excludes us. We are in regular communication with the Dean of the Chang School and the plan continues to be that there are minimal in-person Chang School courses for the Winter 2022 term. We have also worked with the Dean to ensure that the Chang School directly informs CE students on COVID safety planning.

We will continue to advocate on behalf of our members for clearer communication impacting CE students and ensuring that your health, safety and wellbeing are prioritized in any return to campus planning. 

To the Entire X University Community

We all share frustrations with the University Administration’s lack of clear and outright communication to the campus community. We know that the current communications plan of monthly updates forcing a return to campus continues to weigh heavy on so many of us. We also know that many of you, including ourselves, are aching for a return to campus and a return to normalcy. COVID-19 will not allow that for the time being. The Omicron surge has continued to put a strain on our healthcare system and flipped many of our livelihoods and households into a situation where we have lost income, are worried about our dependents and simply do not have the flexibility to rearrange our lives based on the University Administration’s drive to return to campus at all-costs-necessary.

We are sending a message to the University with the following feedback (we know there is a lot more to cover). 

Concerns for symptomatic and asymptomatic members of the campus. 

The current plan would potentially have symptomatic and asymptomatic members within classrooms. A return to in-person learning would require these students to miss classes for a five-day period. We know from the Fall term that not all members follow public health guidelines. This also puts significant expectations on asking students to miss coursework when they could readily have that opportunity with virtual learning.

Concerns for immunocompromised students, their caregivers and household members

The current plan continues to ignore the reality that many students are immunocompromised or have household members or dependents that are immunocompromised. The current plan does not incorporate barrier-free learning and is asking these students to choose their lives or choose academia. While the university has an accommodations policy, that policy is not accessible to the diverse realities of students. Additionally, the University’s reliance on proof of vaccination to address the spread of the virus does not adequately address health and safety for immunocompromised students and community members. A safe return to campus must include proper ventilation and physical distancing procedures within and between classes, as well as other public health measures aside from vaccination status.  

Concerns for International and out-of-GTA students

We know from this university and other universities that International students are treated as cash cows to address provincial funding cuts to education. Throughout the pandemic, and long before it, the university has focused its energy on maintaining International enrollment to make up for chronic government cuts and underfunding. We worry that the current planning is built around ensuring that International students enroll in the maximum amount of courses, while also removing as much flexibility to drop courses. 

Further, the current planning is asking International students and out-of-GTA students to constantly be thinking about how they are going to find and afford travel, housing and employment whenever the university makes a new monthly announcement. This entire process has been extremely dehumanizing, exploitative, and unethical.

Lack of long-term planning

The current planning and communication framework continues to have anyone outside the upper Administration sitting on the edge of our seats. As a central students’ union we have had zero proactive consultation on safety planning. From what we have seen, there has been zero consultations with rank-and-file students on what a safe return to campus would look like. On almost every public platform there is a growing lack of trust in the decision-makers on our campus, mainly because of a lack of transparency and clear communication around the decision-making process. We certainly understand the university’s intention but we do not understand the timeline.

We strongly recommend that the University cancel plans to return students to classrooms in the Winter 2022 term. We also understand that there are numerous other issues facing our staff and faculty partners around the logistics and dangers that this plan puts them in. We understand the intention to return to normalcy and that by-and-large in-person learning is healthier and effective in achieving learning objectives; however, we cannot put our students, staff and faculty in continued risk when the healthcare system, the university system and our household systems are not prepared for the consequences.

Take Action

We also encourage general members to send in their feedback as well. You can send items to the President’s Office at pres@ryerson.ca (CC info@mycesax.ca in your email). Please also get in touch with your student societies, labour unions and other students’ unions on campus to amplify your voices on this matter.

In Solidarity

CESAX Executive