The government of Alberta is encouraging all post-secondary institutions to return to in-class learning this September, but the University of Calgary Students’ Union (SU) isn’t so sure that’s a good idea.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides said that post-secondary schools should prepare to bring students back for on-campus classes this fall.
“Over the past year, Alberta’s post-secondary institutions have adapted to the changing circumstances of the pandemic to protect students, staff and faculty,” Nicolaides said.
“The switch to online learning has not been easy, but our staff and students have all done great work to respond to the pandemic and maintain the quality of our post-secondary system.”
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September will mark nearly a year and a half of online classes, and the UofC says that there’s no doubt that students want to return to in-person learning.
“Online learning has presented difficult challenges for students, instructors, and administration,” U of C Students’ Union President Frank Finley said in a statement. “Campus life isn’t the same without students physically in the space to learn and socialize.”
Nicolaides drew attention to the continued progress of Alberta’s COVID-19 immunization program and mentioned that the provincial government anticipates that every adult Albertan who wants one will receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June.
“With that in mind, I encourage all post-secondary institutions, students and families to prepare for a full return to on-campus learning this September,” said Nicolaides.
The SU feels that the province is providing mixed messaging by blaming the federal government for not providing enough vaccines to Alberta, while at the same time saying that all adults will be able to receive vaccinations by the end of June.
“The Students’ Union supports returning to class in principle, however, this must be done safely without putting students and faculty at risk,” said Finley.
The SU also notes that the provincial government has made significant cuts to post-secondary institutions over the past three years, including more than $90 million to the University of Calgary alone.
“In his statement, the Minister of Advanced Education makes no commitment to supporting institutions financially to cover increased costs such as deep cleaning,” said Finley. “While students are being told to go back to class, the government is turning their back at the same time.”
The SU is calling on the Minister to outline a solid plan for how students will safely return in-class learning and to provide financial support to allow post-secondary schools to ensure proper cleaning protocols so that students and faculty aren’t put at risk.
“The Minister’s statement is broad and lacks detail,” said Finley.
“If the Minister and the UCP government are serious about returning students to class, and doing so safely, then they must step up and provide details and support, otherwise they are putting our campus community at risk.”