On January 20, 2022, the MUN Students’ Union issued a statement to their members that they were “shocked, disheartened, and extremely concerned” with the decision of Memorial University’s senior administration to resume in-person classes on January 31, 2022.
Then on January 23, 2022, MUNSU Executive Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research, Hilary Hennessey, stated to the media, “We are working hard alongside the university administration to try and get this decision reviewed and hopefully amended to accommodate all students on St. John’s campus so that those who are wanting to pursue an education can do it in a way that also protects their health and safety as well.”
In their January 20 release, they stated that “The MUNSU Board of Directors feel very strongly that this decision forces all members of the university community to jeopardize their own health, and the health of their loved ones, to meet the unsafe and exploitative academic and professional expectations handed down to them by MUNL upper administration. University leadership is not prioritizing the health and safety of those within the university community, nor are they considering the concerns of students, staff, and faculty in their decision-making.”
Furthermore, MUNSU stated that they represent hundreds of immunocompromised students or have vulnerable family members and student parents who have children under the age of 12 and have not had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated. “These families are now at risk of exposure due to this decision.”
MUNSU then took issue with MUN’s limitations in providing accommodations and the fact that they can only provide accommodations to those who have documented needs. MUNSU states, “Currently, about one in every five people in Newfoundland and Labrador are without a family doctor, limiting their ability to obtain the necessary documentation needed to avail of accommodations at this university.”
“The decision to return to on-campus learning and activities is an ableist decision that does not accommodate students who identify this transition as a considerably high risk. The university has not communicated a clear or consistent plan for providing accommodations to students or faculty at this time,” stated MUNSU.
Additionally, MUNSU raises the issue of students having to adapt to online learning again if another outbreak was to occur and that this will only create further disruption for everyone.
MUNSU stated that they “will not be following the dangerous timeline set out by university administration.” To ensure the safety of their members, “the MUNSU office, CHMR Radio, and The Attic will continue with remote operations until it is safe to return back to in-person work. Safe Drive and the grocery shuttle will not be offered until it is safe to return these services to our membership.”
MUNSU ends with, “We want to assure you that we are working hard to advocate for this decision to be reviewed in order to protect members within this university and the community. We are asking the university to listen to student concerns and enact clear guidelines for how they are going to accommodate students, faculty, and staff.”
MUNSU is encouraging students to share their concerns or experience regarding this decision by contacting the Executive Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research, Hilary Hennessey, at firstname.lastname@example.org or for advocacy support, the Executive Director of Advocacy, John Mweemba, at email@example.com.
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.