York University’s rapid shift to in-person learning next semester leaves some students behind

York University’s recent decision to return to primarily in-person learning next semester faces backlash from some staff and students who say it is rushed, dangerous and that it is it is impossible for them to complete their diplomas on time.

At the end of October, the school informed students and teachers that from January, it will no longer offer the majority of lessons on Zoom. Instead, 80 percent will be offered in person only, unless students can make accommodations with faculty on a case-by-case basis.

Then, in November, the university replaced many online courses with in-person courses.

Nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition calling on York University to be more flexible and allow students to continue learning online if they wish.

“If anyone’s going to be housed, it should be students,” said Carrie Cooper, who is in her final year of her history degree.

“We are the ones paying the tuition; we are trying to graduate and get through the pandemic.”

Cooper said she spent weeks this summer meticulously choosing online winter courses. The only way she’s been able to afford the tuition – around $ 750 per course – for the past two years is by living in the family neighborhood of London, Ont. at home, working two part-time jobs and learning from a distance.

She felt that a hybrid option would be available even if the university switched to more in-person learning in the winter.

Some students say they weren’t given enough notice to return to Toronto in time for the in-person learning in January. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

However, since November 19, most of his classes are now face-to-face only. She said she would no longer be able to get all the credits she needed to graduate with honors and would instead settle for a bachelor’s degree.

“We’re still in a pandemic. I don’t know why we’re acting like it’s over,” Cooper said. “And that just puts more mental strain on the students.”

Notice too short, says a student

York University spokesman Yanni Dagonas told CBC News the school has “systematically” communicated its plans to staff and students through mass emails and social media. The first time he shared details about his expectations for in-person learning was on October 19 and updated the course formats, including switching many online courses to in-person, a month later.

“We recognize that students need predictability in order to plan for the next term,” said Dagonas. “Those students who prefer online learning have been asked to choose courses that are scheduled to be delivered online. “

He said the university had also taken safety measures, such as providing rapid tests and hand sanitizer on campus and improving air circulation in buildings.

Maija Goranson found out in late October that she would be required to attend four of her five classes in person at York University in January. She lives an 18 hour drive away and says she can’t afford to turn back time. (Submitted by Maija Goranson)

But Maija Goranson, a sophomore psychology student, said the courses that are still offered online are all full. And four of his five courses that were supposed to be available to distance students are now in person only.

At the start of the pandemic, she traveled 1,700 kilometers home to Atikokan, Ontario. – east of Thunder Bay. Returning to Toronto in time for the winter semester is not an option financially or logistically, she said.

“I’m not completely averse to going back in person. I just wish they would give us more time to prepare,” Goranson said. “It was as if it had happened overnight.”

She said she had no choice but to drop four classes and try to make up for them in the future.

York decision lasts for staff, union says

Universities across the province have taken different approaches to dealing with the pandemic this school year, although the vast majority of schools, including York University, require students to be vaccinated to attend campus. Western and Queen’s mostly returned to in-person learning this fall, while McMaster University continued to offer most courses online.

Ryerson University told CBC News that about 20% of its classes are now in-person, which will increase next semester, but most offices will continue to offer options online.

Riaz Nandan, president of the York Federation of Students, pictured at the university on Thursday. Right now the campus is nearly empty, but in January thousands of students will return as York returns to in-person learning. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

While many students wish to resume in-person learning, the university should be more flexible for international students and those who do not have accommodation in Toronto or are uncomfortable learning without physical distance. said Riaz Nandan, president of the York University student union. .

Under provincial rules, physical distancing is not required for indoor amphitheatres, which can accommodate hundreds of people.

Vanessa Lehan, who teaches philosophy at York University, said she was okay with welcoming students who can’t attend lectures in person in the winter, but she anticipates it will double her workload. She said she hoped the university would reverse the course on in-person learning, or better tackle the barriers some students and staff face.

As president of CUPE Local 3903, which represents some education workers in York, she has heard colleagues share the same opinion.

“People are extremely concerned about their extra work, if they will even be able to do it,” Lehan said.

“And security concerns are also a concern. We have members who have vulnerable family members and York has denied any accommodation requests on that basis.”

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