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Graduate students navigate office closures, restricted study spaces

Most indoor office spaces remain closed due to provincial guidance
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Office closures have a negative impact on student productivity. JULIAN BLEECKER/CC FLICKR
Office closures have a negative impact on student productivity. JULIAN BLEECKER/CC FLICKR

Though U of T is well into its fall semester, graduate students are continuing to navigate unique obstacles that have remained in place during the reopening process. One of these challenges is that offices usually reserved for graduate students are not expected to re-open until provincial guidelines allow them to. 

While many libraries and cafés have opened for student use, some smaller spaces remain closed. Many students have voiced concerns about the lack of suitable alternatives to student offices in the face of an ongoing need for more student spaces on campus. 

Student concerns

Community members have voiced concerns at the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’s (UTGSU) board meetings, noting that many graduate students have been unable to access office spaces that were available to them before the pandemic. Students added that this has had a negative impact on their ability to get work done. 

In an email to The Varsity, UTGSU Academics and Funding Commissioner Danielle Karakas confirmed that indoor office spaces have remained closed while lab spaces have opened due to ordinances set out by the province.

Though the union reached out to department unions in September for feedback and concerns, they did not receive a response. Karakas added that she would encourage any students with concerns to reach out to the UTGSU, their course union, or their department directly. 

University response

In a statement to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson acknowledged graduate students’ frustrations and wrote that the university is working to open those smaller spaces. “Each space is unique and we need to proceed cautiously and ensure that public health guidance is being followed,” the spokesperson added. 

The spokesperson agreed with the union, writing that if students had specific concerns about departmental spaces and arrangements regarding their needs, they should reach out to department leadership.