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UTM student starts petition against return to in-person classes

Students cite international travel, safety concerns as hesitations for returning to campus
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Return to classes results in complications for students. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Return to classes results in complications for students. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Alex Aurica, a fourth-year student at UTM, has started a petition on Change.org to keep all UTM classes online after the campus announced that classes would be shifting to in-person delivery during the winter semester. 

In an email to The Varsity, a UTM spokesperson noted that many students are excited to get back to campus. UTM has announced that they are using the fall semester as a buffer to allow vaccine mandates and passports to take effect.

Aurica wrote to The Varsity that they started the petition due to transportation concerns. They added that they hoped to bring the petition to UTM administration once it had gained 300 signatures. As of October 17, the petition has over 350 signatures.

Attendance concerns

Aurica explained that they started the petition because they believe they would have a difficult time getting to campus due to transportation issues, and they saw that many students had expressed similar problems online.

Victoria Valeeva, a first-year chemical and physical science student, expressed that as an international student, the move to in-person classes would pose a problem for their return to Canada.

“Even if I leave my current country right after my last exam, it will just be a couple days after my quarantine ends when classes start,” Valeeva explained in an email to The Varsity. Valeeva added that they aren’t able to get a Health Canada approved vaccine in Russia, nor can they get any other since they are not over 18.  

UTM requires everyone returning to campus to be fully vaccinated, which can take approximately a month, so Valeeva won’t be able to attend any of their in-person classes for a month unless they take weekly COVID-19 screening tests.

Besides negatively impacting their GPA, this would also impact their finances. Valeeva has to maintain full-time status or else they no longer qualify for the scholarship that pays for 75 per cent of their international tuition.

 If they lose the scholarship, they can’t afford to attend UTM. Valeeva might have to drop some of their required courses to prolong their undergraduate degree, maintain full-time status and skip a month of courses, or spend additional money on courses they don’t require to maintain full-time status. 

Not a safe space

Rose Amirpour, a first-year psychology student, wrote in an email to The Varsity that she doesn’t believe it’s “remotely safe for anyone to go back to a class full of 500 people or let alone 100.” UTM has not yet announced any details about in-person class sizes.

She added that while she’s fully vaccinated and supports the mask-wearing policy, she still doesn’t feel comfortable being around a lot of people. Amirpour was hoping that the university wouldn’t consider returning to in-person course delivery until next year, which she believes would allow people to “get prepared in time to get back.”

Further details about UTM’s transition from online to in-person learning will soon be available to students.