Despite 90 per cent of classes offering an online option for the fall semester, U of T residences are set to open with precautions in place to guard against COVID-19.

Residence rooms will be single-occupancy, even if they have the capacity for multiple residents, with some exceptions, such as for students who are from the same household. Since this will lower the total capacity of residence spaces and the university is maintaining its first-year residence guarantee, a U of T spokesperson noted in an interview with The Varsity that “contingency plans for additional rooms are in place should they be needed.”

Additionally, instead of a single move-in day, dates will be staggered to help with physical distancing. If students are not able to make it to campus at the beginning of September, they can pay a deposit to maintain their residence spot for when they are able to get to campus. 

Cafeterias in residences will be serving mostly take-out food, and a mobile ordering app is in the works for the St. George campus. A similar app that includes grocery delivery is set to be released at UTSC. 

The U of T spokesperson explained that “all residences have enhanced cleaning protocols,” which will include increased hand-sanitizing stations, physical distancing barriers where necessary, and health and safety training for staff. 

Residence events will also be subject to change with COVID-19 precautions. Virtual events as well as in-person events in small groups will be more common. However, larger events are on the table if Ontario’s public health reopening guidelines change.

The Varsity got in touch with two incoming first-year students to see why they decided to live in residence despite most classes being online for the year.

Amrita Brar expressed that motivation for doing well in online classes will come easier while living on campus. She is also confident that even though residence will be physically distanced, making friends and joining the community is still possible. “All of us entering first year share the bond of our last year of high school coming to a premature end,” she said. ”now having to navigate our first year of university during a pandemic… we’ll already have a strong connection.”

Another incoming student, Malika Bhambra, decided to live on campus to have the best first-year experience possible. “My expectations of residence are quite low due to COVID-19 and public health restrictions,” she wrote. “However, I do know that [orientation] week is still continuing and I’ll still be able to have courses in person so for me, I’m only sacrificing socializing in large groups which is something I’m okay with.”

The U of T spokesperson wrote that the university is “preparing for a gradual, safe return to our campuses, with as much on-campus activity as is practical, sensible and safe.”