An Open Letter to Canadian Universities and Colleges

Subject: An Open Letter to Canadian Universities and Colleges
From: Students
Date: 13 May 2020

Dear Universities and Colleges alike,

A lot has happened in the last few months that neither you or I could have predicted. As the semester came to an abrupt end and many of us lost our graduation, prom, and last goodbyes to our friends, I ask that you take some things into consideration moving forward.

As we move into May, I ask that you rethink your decisions of online based learning for the fall semester. I admire your dedication to our health and wellbeing but I feel as though these decisions are premature. The progression of the virus has changed immensely over the past few weeks and undoubtedly will continue to in the coming weeks. Our efforts in slowing the spread are paying off but it doesn't feel like they are. Your decision to cancel in-person learning in the fall feels like a punishment. I have gone to great lengths to ensure I follow all of the provincial and federal directions to slow the spread in hopes of having life return to normal but before I've even had the chance to show my efforts you are deciding that I have not done enough. Understandably you want to be prepared but announcing what appears to me, a sound decision to move things online, is premature and punishing.

I ask that you think critically in decisions concerning the fall semester and account for some of these points in your decision:

1. Online learning does NOT work for most students. Some students do not have access to a strong internet connection or any internet connection at all. Living situations may be full of distractions e.g. abusive parents/guardians, other members working from home, etc. Lack of in-person communication leaves room for misinterpretation.

2. There are lasting effects on the job market and future enrolment. students have already decided to postpone their applications to schools until the Fall semester of 2021. With a large portion of students delaying their applications there will be an abundance of applications in the Fall of 2021 making already very competitive programs even more competitive. Graduates of these programs may also find themselves in a more competitive job market.

3. Loss of scholarships. Student athletes will not be able to play their sport. Without being able to participate many students will not receive their scholarships making it financially impossible to attend university for that academic year. Awarding scholarships to athletes of a sport that will not be played is not financially feasible or appropriate.

4. The most important point: Mental health. As institutions working to better mental health support and resources, your decision to announce an online fall semester this prematurely is irresponsible. In some of the most stressful times you are adding unnecessary stress to your students. Not knowing what's next or if you will be able to continue your education this year has impacted our mental health and wellbeing more than you know. Among this all some students rely on the in-person mental health support during the academic year and this may not be accessible to them while distance learning. Virtual mental health resources can only do so much.

While I could've easily written a much longer letter as to why you should reconsider your decision of online learning for the fall semester, I kept short focusing on the main points I think should be considered. Things like research projects coming to a halt, volunteering opportunities no longer within reach, and the ability to be in a place we love doing what we love are just some of the many things that I hope that you take into consideration.

Your Student

*Disclaimer: I understand the severity of this situation and agree that the health and safety of others is the top priority. This is only to highlight our concerns as students in premature decisions to cancel in-person learning

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to e-mail: [email protected]