Ryerson University students push for online learning options

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Students at Ryerson University are adding their voices to a growing cacophony of calls to keep college and university classes online.

From January 31, classes at the university began to return to in-person learning. In-person classes will be fully operational by the end of February.

Although the school has a vaccination mandate and mandatory masking, students are unhappy with the in-person learning plan. A Change.org petition to keep college classes online has garnered more than 11,000 signatures.

“Students have no say in whether they want to continue online or not,” the petition reads.

Like other universities, colleges and public schools in Ontario, classrooms are being treated as an exemption to the COVID-19 spread rule. Although physical distancing is mandatory in most areas of campus, in the classroom students should sit closely with their neighbors. The dream scenario of an airborne virus.

The university’s student union is working on an email zap to demand that the university administration maintain hybrid courses, giving students the option of learning in person or online.

A student has written an open letter to the university, stating that Ontario’s current reopening plans are for optional activities like going to a restaurant or the gym, and those are half full.

Students have no choice, they never had a choice — we students were never consulted before the decision to reopen the university,” reads the letter from Jwalit Bharwani, a mechanical engineering student.

Bharwani said students did not have that option and classes would be at full capacity. The province does not plan to allow indoor spaces to operate at full capacity until March 14, at the earliest.

Am I to understand that Ryerson understands this situation better than the province? The same university that has repeatedly said it will only make decisions based on the province’s reopening plan,” Bharwani wrote.

Bharwani continues to say that her whole family caught COVID-19 in December 2020, just before exams. He wrote that of the six professors he emailed about his illness, only one replied.

COVID has affected my grades, my mental health, my physical health, and my overall college experience,” he wrote in the open letter.

Not to mention that reopening plans are coming at short notice. Some students say they left town to avoid Toronto’s high rents and the need to be on campus. Finding a rental in a few weeks for a few months is almost impossible.

A student who has returned to his home country commented on the petition, saying going online now is causing additional and unnecessary stress for students.

“Now that I’m being told (with such short notice and a lot of ambiguity) that we’ll be coming back in person, it creates the stress of having to find a place to rent in Toronto and completely go back to an apartment all over again,” said the comment.

Professors have also joined calls to at least reduce class sizes when in-person classes resume. Full professors from the School of Occupational and Public Health have signed an open letter to the university regarding steps to be taken before the school reopens.

The school has yet to indicate its intention to reverse the in-person learning decision.

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