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UTM aiming for mostly in-person winter semester

International students fear difficulty returning to Canada
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University of Toronto Mississauga. SHUTTERBUGAMAR/CC FLICKR
University of Toronto Mississauga. SHUTTERBUGAMAR/CC FLICKR

In a message to students, UTM Vice-President & Principal Alexandra Gillespie announced that UTM is planning for the majority of winter semester courses to be held in person. Gillespie indicated that, while some courses are currently scheduled to be online in the winter, UTM may soon change their course delivery method to in-person. 

An announcement on the UTM website acknowledges the fact that they are using the fall semester as a buffer to allow vaccine mandates and passports to take effect, as well as a chance for international students to travel to Canada.

Jane Stirling, UTM’s executive director, marketing and communications wrote in an email to The Varsity that “Students who we’re [sic] interacted with are very excited to get back to in-person classes this winter.”

Stirling also mentioned that UTM is planning to deliver the majority of courses in person but certain undetermined courses “across the curriculum” will be offered online. She added that more updates on course delivery methods will come between now and the winter 2022 semester, and that UTM will take community wellness and student success into consideration. 

Concerns from students 

Mitra Yakubi, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union president, wrote in an email to The Varsity that “a number of students have reached out with concerns about the plan for a full return in January.” 

Some of the concerns that students have brought forward include an inability to find secure housing for students in time for the start of semester; feeling unsafe due to lack of capacity limits; financial constraints from loss of personal and familial income; and having to worry about housing, food, and plane tickets. International students are also worried about obtaining visas in time and worry about the insufficient COVID-19 protocols in place at U of T. 

Yakubi wrote, “In my opinion students, staff, faculty and everyone else should be given the opportunity to decide whether they’d like to continue online or be in-person.”

“For students who are interested and excited for in-person learning the university must ensure that it is done in the safest way possible and that they protect the well-being of everyone here at UTM,” she continued. 

Lucas Noritomi-Hartwig, a second year computer science, math and statistics student wrote to The Varsity, “I don’t think transitioning to in-person delivery during the Fall/Winter session would make any sense. I have no idea how the Winter term will be for me if I… have to go in-person.” Noritomi-Hartwig lives approximately an hour away from campus. 

Noritomi-Hartwig explained that the amount of planning and reorganizing that would have to be done in such little time would cause poor results. “People plan things for the whole year, and this sort of throws a wrench into their plans,” he continued. 

“If the university wants to return to an in-person delivery mode, it should only be considered after this current Fall/Winter session has completed,” he suggested.