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UTSC students, faculty excited for return to campus with some reservations

Community members express concerns about in-person safety, online learning experiences
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The UTSC campus. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
The UTSC campus. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

UTSC is planning a largely in-person winter semester after a mostly online fall, but students and faculty have mixed feelings about going back to campus. 

Leaving online learning behind

A fourth-year UTSC student, Luan Duan, majoring in statistics and economics shared his experience of attending classes virtually from his home in British Columbia. He said that because he has ADHD, online learning has been difficult for him. “It’s not very suitable for me. It’s too distracting,” said Duan.

Additionally, the online delivery of courses made it quite difficult to interact with professors and approach them with questions. Duan highlighted the time-zone differences, which made it hard for him to talk to his professors. 

Despite the many obstacles of online learning, Duan remarked that since most exams are now open-book, he feels less stressed about them.  

Guillaume Filion, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Science, also commented on the student experience online, saying that the dangers that a continuation of online learning poses to students’ mental health are potentially greater than the risk imposed by COVID-19. 

Filion also remarked that online options should be created for students who cannot attend in person, giving them the option to attend in person if they’re feeling well or attend online if they start feeling sick or unsafe on campus. 

Safety 

Duan is looking forward to returning to campus since, he says, it “has been almost two years since the last time I saw my friends.” However, given the news of the Omicron variant, he also hopes that the university creates a safe environment. 

Filion also shared his impression of the reopening plans in an interview with The Varsity. “I think the campus is ready… I think that Canada and Ontario are not ready,” said Filion. 

“I don’t think that anybody’s in the position to say let’s just wait it out forever, because it could take long. So at some point we have to just get out. And the question is, is it now? Is it later? I really think it’s impossible to tell… My guess is anyway, we have to try at some point,” he continued.

Filion said that he does not believe that UTSG’s success in the fall necessarily has positive implications for the in-person winter semesters. “Like, the weather is different, people’s behavior is different, the time [since] the last vaccine is different,” he pointed out. 

Nevertheless, he expressed happiness with the progress that has been made in the past year. “When you look at where we were last year, I am just so happy that we have at least some presence on campus and that it seems to be holding,” he said.