With the fall semester of 2021 winding down and exam season creeping up, York not only looks forward to the holiday season, but also the return to in-person classes starting in January 2022.
At this point in the semester, York has promoted and maintained strict vaccination policies for staff and students with the introduction of its YU screen feature. Ninety-six per cent of York’s staff, 98 per cent of faculty/instructors and 95 per cent of its students are revealed to be fully vaccinated, however, with growing concerns of the omicron variant, a student-organized petition has been making the rounds.
According to the online petition, the curator’s intention is to give students the option to continue their studies online during the 2022 winter semester. The petition argues that students are not being given the right to continue their studies online. It highlights the uncertainty surrounding York’s potential return to campus to in-person classes, which was only confirmed by York for the winter semester on October 19.
The petition argues that those who have conflicting schedules, those who are immunocompromised and/or those uncomfortable to return to campus, are not being taken into account.
Third-year English and professional writing student Sandra Moey says, “I do think that York is taking marginalized communities into account. York is merely following the guidelines posted by the government.” Moey is one of the many concerned students regarding the progression towards in-person classes.
Moey continues to say, “There are other perspectives that we should consider. There are students that have auto-immune diseases that can’t afford to risk going back to campus for their own well-being, international students that are in the process of migrating to Canada or reluctant to leave their families, and others who are unable to afford the expenses of living on campus or having to commute vast distances.”
Responding on behalf of York was Parissa Safai, the special advisor to the president of academic continuity planning and COVID-19 response. Safai explains that York has “undertaken extensive planning to support a safe return to full-time activities on campus” and further notes that York has complied with the guidance of the Ontario Government, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Toronto Public Health.
Regarding the uncertainty that the petition claims, Safai adds that “course notes provided at the start of classes have indicated to students whether the course was to remain remote or online for the entire year.”
Safai acknowledges the overwhelmingly positive vaccination rate amongst York’s community and the school’s intentions to keep everyone as safe as possible. Safai emphasizes however that “while vaccination is critical, multiple health and safety strategies are being considered for the winter semester in order to keep everyone safe” and that York understands that predictability is needed in order to plan for future events.
Excalibur reached out to the anonymous curator of this petition, who, at this time, has not provided a comment. The petition’s goal is to reach 10,000 signatures and is currently at 8,846 signatures.