University of Toronto Mississauga students push school officials to delay return to in-person classes

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Published November 17, 2021 at 1:12 pm

More than 1,600 University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) students and counting are pushing for school officials to delay what they claim is an abrupt and unsafe return to in-person classes at the Mississauga Rd. campus.  

The university’s move to restart in-person lectures and other classes in January has left many students, particularly international pupils and others who must travel a long distance back to Mississauga, scrambling to make arrangements.  

Beyond the logistics involved, the students are also concerned about their safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UTM, home to more than 14,700 students, announced in October that it is planning to hold the majority of winter semester courses in person. Prior to that, according to a number of students, the post-secondary school had taken more of a wait-and-see approach, making the announcement seem like an abrupt about-face. 

While some students, including a number of those who must return from abroad, are able to make it back by January, many others are not. And they’re worried they’ll lose a year of school, and in other cases are concerned their scholarships may be jeopardized. 

As of today, 1,633 students, and counting, had emailed UTM officials via a UTM Student Union petition entitled “We Need a Safe Return to Campus.”  

The mass email, sent to more than a dozen senior UTM and University of Toronto decision-makers, including U of T president Meric Gertler and UTM principal Alexandra Gillespie, reads, in part: “The announcement to return back to campus in January was very abrupt and disorganized. Students are now finding it difficult to make housing, transportation and travel arrangements. While we know that everyone wants to be back on campus, students do not want to be on campus without proper planning and notice. Students need a safe and slow transition back to in-person learning.” 

In the email, students call on UTM officials to “ensure a safe and equitable return to campus” by: 

  • delaying the full return to campus until summer 2022 when there are reduced class offerings
  • refusing to exercise the discretionary option to lower pandemic safety standards that were granted to post-secondary institutions by the Ontario government
  • scheduling all in-person classes, librarianship and other work to comply with Peel Public Health’s strong recommendations in support of two-metrephysical distancing and reduced density indoors
  • investing funds, staff and resources to record lectures in person so that faculty and lecturers can focus on teaching students, not figuring out technology
  • supporting international students by hosting a town hall and creating an action plan to address their specific academic, immigration, health and housing needs
  • establishing a consistent and centralized accommodation procedure

The submission from students concludes: “As students, we should not have to choose between our academic careers, well-being and safety. These protocols and accommodations will help me, my colleagues, staff and faculty successfully transition back to in-person learning and find a balance in life, where I can meaningfully engage in my classes.” 

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