When the University of Saskatchewan closed its doors in March, many students assumed that things would go back to normal come fall.
“I thought that this whole situation would be resolved by the end of the summer — that I would be able to travel and attend classes,” says Soma Aao, a transfer student from Egypt.
For a year, Aao has been planning to transfer to the Edwards School of Business for her final year of undergraduate, before pursuing a masters degree at the U of S.
“I’m thinking it twice now,” she said. “Everything has become ten times more complicated.”
U of S students have an unusual year ahead of them, as the university has now announced that in addition to in-person learning, on-campus living is also cancelled for the Fall Term. The Voyageur Place residences will stay closed.
“The whole plan of closing campus as a whole is to limit the amount of people on campus and contact between people,” says George Foufas, university director of consumer services . “So if we would open our residences up, we would be contradicting the university’s plan.”
For now, the university is keeping the residence community small. While off-campus apartment-style residences will be open for the fall, units will be allotted based on need. Students enrolled in in-person courses, residence assistants and those without reliable access to technology are among the people who will be given priority, but the university will examine special circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
Foufas says VP will reopen for the Winter Term, though students should expect to see some changes.
“People are going to see a shift and some changes in terms of what’s offered in Voyageur Place. There’s a high likelihood that we will not be offering two-bedroom units. They’ll probably all be singles,” Foufas said.
Emally Bloom, a student going into the College of Arts and Science, says she will now likely stay in her home province of Alberta until the Winter Term. Though the U of S’s new remote delivery mode allows her to study from afar, she worries about how it might affect her freshman year.
“It could affect how well I progress in the courses, without having any actual in-person help,” Bloom said. “We are going to be a lot more isolated this first year.”
Social-distancing measures are also a concern for Aao. The university has directed all international students not to travel to Canada unless they are required to by their academic program and are exempt from border restrictions. On top of the increased difficulty of travelling, Aao also worries about having to get to know a new country under unusual circumstances.
“Life is not as easy as it was before COVID-19,” Aao said.
The temporary closure of some of the residences also has financial consequences, says Foufas. The loss of revenue from residences, culinary and retail services “has impacted [their] budget for sure.”
Foufas says they have no concrete plans yet to address this loss.
“We’re just continuing monitoring and working through it as we go along,” Foufas said. “We’re looking forward to eventually seeing [students] back in our spaces and back on campus when things get back to normal.”
Ana Cristina Camacho | Copy Editor
Photo: Heywood Yu