Earlier this month, the university announced a tentative return to on-campus instruction for Fall 2021.
I felt ecstatic at the thought of going back to the university grounds and attending in-person classes. Although there is some good to this, and we are all eager to get back to some sense of normalcy, there is also plenty to worry about.
Once I was reminded of how the Arts Building used to reach what felt like maximum capacity every morning before the pandemic, I started worrying about how the university will deal with such traffic.
Moreover, the issue of overcrowding doesn’t end with the Arts Building.
Even more cramped with traffic at times is the hallway outside of Thorvaldson Room 105. With the onslaught of students exiting and others trying to get into the room, plus students who are just passing through to get to their next classes, foot traffic virtually stops, in my experience.
Another space full of foot traffic is the Arts Tunnel, where campus clubs and different organizations talk to students about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and more. The tunnel is wide enough that people can walk by without slowing down, but it is still a place that many campus members use.
Another worry are student parties.
As university students, we are no strangers to college life and partying. With the pandemic ongoing, I worry about the consequences large gatherings like parties may bring.
In a recent message to students, University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff also says that many of the university’s facilities and services will be aiming to operate to the “fullest extent possible” and that more student residences will be open. Looking at other universities, there are multiple cases of unsanctioned partying at student residences resulting in increased cases.
Earlier in February, the University of Guelph had an outbreak of 61 confirmed cases, which was linked to student parties in their residences. At the University of Toronto, students have reported that groups as large as 10 people gather in each others’ dorms despite university protocols that forbid this.
On March 4, Peterborough Public Health announced an outbreak at Trent University’s Symons Campus where five cases were confirmed at one of the student residences. At the University of British Columbia, it has been reported that the RCMP issued four fines totalling $5,000 to students at social gatherings in February.
Although these are real worries surrounding campus reopenings, there is also some good that came with Stoicheff’s recent statement.
In Stoicheff’s announcement, he says that the university is working on continuing remote learning for students who are interested. From my perspective, this allows flexibility for students outside of Saskatchewan to stay in their homes and not have to pay rent on top of tuition. I think opening this option will also help students who are working while in school, offering more flexibility to manage their working hours and school hours.
Another good part of this announcement is that it opens up the possibility for students to be back on campus and take in-person classes again. Personally, I prefer being in a classroom environment rather than my bedroom when learning or doing my homework. I also have many colleagues who share this same sentiment.
Lastly, with the campus reopening and the vaccines rolling out, the future feels brighter with hope that we will one day return to normal. Even though the extent of on-campus instruction we will get in Fall Term 2021 is uncertain, that hope is still there.
The increased number of vaccinations means that we will hopefully reach herd immunity at some point. Once full herd immunity is attained, the potential issues I list above may not be as problematic.
There are good things to look forward to, but there are worries we must be aware of and act on. For now, we can follow public health guidelines so that we can reach a sense of normalcy sooner than later.
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a reply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. J.C Balicanta Narag is a fourth-year undergraduate business student studying human resourcesand is the Editor-in-Chief of the Sheaf.