On January 19th, 2022, Memorial University announced that all in-person courses that are currently taught remotely will return to campus effective January 31st, except for classes with over 100 students. A petition was started within hours of MUN’s announcement, and as of 8:15 PM, it has 896 signatures.
The creator(s) of the petition states that “Many students have concerns around this announcement and are worried about their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of their close contacts… This petition is for MUN to offer a completely remote option for all courses that have been completely remote in previous semesters due to COVID.”
They have a list of concerns. Firstly, they mention is that MUN is risking the health and safety of over 20,000 students, faculty, and staff and the close contacts of these people. They state that the only option is for students to drop in-person courses. This could even lead to some students having in a delay in their graduate date. Secondly, MUN has no plan for student absences due to COVIDZ-19 isolation requirements. They do not think that it is adequate that it is left up the professor of each course to decide what to do with students in this situation. Thirdly, the impossibility of always enforcing social distancing and the mask mandate on campus. Fourthly, students are not provided with N95 masks and face shields by the university. Fifthly, Newfoundland and Labrador is in alert level 4 with 18 people in hospital.
Further, they state that the concerns of students are not being addressed, and MUN did not consult students. There were no form, survey, or questionnaire sent out to let students voice their concerns.
Hilaree Glavine states that “this is an irresponsible and ABLEIST decision that puts immunocompromised people at a HUGE risk. The number of cases are so high right now it makes zero sense to be on campus. plus, how are we supposed to social distance in classes with 99 people??!!”
Kira Whittaker says, “I’m signing because, despite multiple opportunities to provide answers to students with concerns, they continue to refuse to provide answers.”
Andrew Taylor states, “I don’t think the university is making a rational decision for these points: Some students are not physically here yet, they’re in other provinces, the uncertainty around flights to get students here is an issue given what’s happening, they haven’t held the parking lottery yet, so students are without parking permit and risk parking at a fine to attend class, students who have to now take public transport to class to attend put themselves and others at risk, what is in place for an outbreak? Will that specific class go online? Will the whole university go online? This would significantly impact the delivery of education, will students be notified if a classmate has tested positive in order to allow for contact tracing? If multiple students are contacts of an infected student, how will they get their lectures? If the professor is only lecturing in person and not recording, all the students will have access to are slides, which isn’t fair. The university is making the wrong decision at the worst time possible. There’s no financial loss to the university for keeping students online till May. Most students haven’t had their booster either. Whatever the rationale behind this decision, it is flawed.”
Makenna Taylor states, “I personally do not feel comfortable attending in-person classes while watching the case numbers, along with hospitalizations and deaths, rising. Of course, in-person learning is valuable but is it worth risking the health of students, staff, and all of their close contacts? For immunocompromised individuals, this is an even more serious concern, one that may cause students to defer their graduation date due to being unable to attend in-person classes. This is very unfair, especially when there is a solution. It is also very worrisome that there are no protocols in place that help students who do contract COVID and cannot attend classes. It is very, very easy to fall behind and missing an entire week or more of lectures could be detrimental to students’ success.”
Becca Chaulk says, “I think this decision is ridiculous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing online lectures. It’s not like you’re doing hands-on stuff like in a lab. If anything, online classes are awesome because some of them will be asynchronous, so if you have assessments you have to work on, you can always wait to watch your lecture later that day. But that’s not the main point of staying online, safety is the top priority. I think it’s obvious that MUN does not care about what is in our best interest, and it’s like they want us to get COVID-19.”
Katie Little says, “I had to isolate due to illness for two weeks last September and spent the rest of the semester trying (and failing) to catch up. My mental health tanked from the stress. None of my classrooms had adequate distancing or ventilation, despite what the administration keeps saying. It’s one thing to announce that you’re taking safety measures and accommodating students who need to stay home, it’s another to actually do them.”
Emma Dove states, “There are many reasons why MUN should support hybrid learning during our current situation of the pandemic. I am personally not in the province and am unable to get back at this time, due to uncertainties regarding flights, not having a safe place to isolate properly, and also living with immunocompromised people. Like a lot of students, I rely on public transportation, which is another possible site of exposure that could lead me to pass COVID-19 onto a vulnerable member of my household, my peers who may be vulnerable, or my instructors. I did not experience adequate distancing that met provincial guidelines in my courses during the Fall 2021 semester, so I have reason to believe that this semester would be much the same. With the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, I cannot risk in-person learning this semester (even though I would rather learn in a face-to-face classroom setting). I also feel that it is unfair that the university is not changing the drop date for undergraduate courses, as their announcement is coming quite late considering that courses must be dropped by January 20th (tomorrow) for a full refund. I think that students and instructors deserve a choice, as it is their safety being put at risk.”
Cady Cumby states, “This is the worst possible decision to be made at this point. It seems that the university has little regard or consideration for public health, and has not thought this out at all. This was announced a DAY before the due date for full refunds for the semester. Also, international students are not being given an appropriate amount of time with self-isolation. In fact, it goes against the guidelines of Newfoundland gov’s travel restrictions (from the site: All travellers entering Newfoundland and Labrador are required to submit the Travel Form within 30 days of their expected travel date). Why is it that the student body was given no opportunity for input on such an important matter which can affect the health of our family members and immunocompromised students… This new variant spreads easier, and I can guarantee you that most classrooms will not have the space to social distance (which was not possible in my fall classes at all).”
Jorden Cooney-Callahan states, “They’re also not taking into consideration that if for any future circumstance that the province goes into another lockdown, students who live off-campus are then forced to stay put in their living accommodations in town, making rent payments a risky cost of paying for living arrangements when most students (including myself) could be living at home with their parents to be in a comfortable environment, as well as saving extra money to contribute to other necessities.”
Elisabeth de Mariaffi says, “As an instructor, I’d rather teach my students online for a few more weeks — we’re already in rhythm, and I think they will be more productive and creative if we can relieve the anxiety around COVID exposure.”
Daniel states, “As an immunocompromised student, I now need to choose between my health and my education. In-person learning is very important, but not at the risk of exposure to COVID. In the previous fall semester, I had exams in person that required a significant number of people to gather in a small classroom for around 2 hours. It was impossible to social distance, and I do not think MUN is capable of doing this properly for all courses if they were unable to do it for a single, in-person exam when the rest of the semester was online. I was a bit concerned with in-person labs but felt the hybrid approach was a much sensible balance than this.”
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.