U Of T Mississauga Student Union Says The Return To Campus This Winter Is 'Disorganized'

Hundreds of students want to delay the full return back to school.

Toronto Associate Editor
U Of T Mississauga Student Union Says The Return To Campus This Winter Is 'Disorganized'

The University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union is calling on the school to rethink its return to campus for the upcoming winter term.

Over 1,700 UTM students have signed the UTMSU petition, which generates a templated email that they can instantly send out to all of the significant and influential university representatives.

"As a student at the University of Toronto Mississauga, my experience has been drastically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement to return back to campus in January was very abrupt and disorganized," the start of the email template said.

"Students are now finding it difficult to make housing, transportation, and travel arrangements. While we know that everyone wants to be back on campus, students do not want to be on campus without proper planning and notice," the letter continued.

Within the email, students call to attention certain demands they want U of T "decision-makers" to consider in order to make sure there is a safe return to campus when students go back to in-person learning this winter.

Some of the considerations include delaying the full return to campus for Summer 2022 since there are already reduced class choices, working with Peel Public Health's recommendations when scheduling in-person classes, properly supporting international students by developing a plan to address all of their needs, and "refusing to exercise the discretionary option to lower pandemic safety standards that were granted to post-secondary institutions by the Ford government."

"As students, we should not have to choose between our academic careers, well-being, and safety," the email template said before signing off.

What is UTM's back-to-school plan for Winter 2022?

UTM announced earlier that they would be offering in-person classes for most of its courses in the upcoming winter term. This means about 85% of winter courses will be switched back to in-person learning, and UTM students can consult with the university's timetable to see how their courses will be offered then.

"U of T is firstly an in-person post-secondary institution," Vice-President and Principal of UTM Alexandra Gillespie said in an announcement. "We have a formal responsibility to offer most of our courses on campus; any permanent changes to move classes online after the pandemic will require governance approval. But we've seen significant benefits from virtual learning, especially over the past eighteen months and we'll continue to explore ways to expand online options over the long term."

Gillespie also added that UTM will offer more in-person social events, physical activities, co-curricular student programs. UTM will still implement its masking protocols, mandatory vaccine requirements, health screening and ventilation strategies in the winter term.

"We'll continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and other experts: we're ready to adapt as the science develops and to build on our community-leading success in limiting cases on campus and in our region," Gillespie added.

A spokesperson from the University of Toronto told Narcity that they recognize the challenges that the pandemic has caused, especially for all of its students and their return to school this year.

"That is why all three campuses designed the fall semester as a period of transition to provide everyone a chance to return to campus gradually," the spokesperson said.

"As a leading global university, our priority is to get students back to in-person learning as safely and as soon as possible. In-person is critical to effective learning, and for students' mental health and well-being." The university will continue to follow its mandatory vaccine policies into the Winter term.*

*This article has been updated to include a statement from the University of Toronto.

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor