As the weather gets colder, more students are beginning to get sick, and Western doesn’t have enough checks and balances in place to make sure these students are not attending class unwell.
In a normal year, it can be hard to hear a professor in a large lecture hall over the chorus of coughing and wheezing — but this isn’t a normal year.
The added risk of the coronavirus means that students feeling under the weather are forced to decide between their education or the health of their classmates. No young adult should have to make that choice.
While Western University has a COVID-19 screening survey that students are supposed to fill out before coming to campus, no one checks if students have taken it. There’s also nothing to prevent students from lying on these surveys.
There’s also no clear alternative for students who fail the screening survey. If Western is going to tell students not to come to class when they’re feeling unwell, they need to put systems in place that ensure students aren’t disadvantaged if they can’t come to in-person class.
Some in-person classes still have mandatory attendance and participation, and without Zoom hybrid options, students are putting each other at risk of getting sick.
There isn’t much more that Western can do on campus to keep students safe. They could try to mandate social distancing, but the university doesn’t have the capacity. It’s on students to decide whether or not they come to school — the university should make sure the option to not attend is realistic.
Hybrid class models with Zoom would probably be the best solution if Western wants to keep students from coming to campus sick. This model is already in place at Ivey Business School, where professors are live streamed on Zoom and students sign onto the call whether they are in-person or at home.
Classes with hybrid components already have paid students who assist professors with the transition. There’s no reason that this program can’t be extended across campus to ensure students have the option to attend class online if necessary.
If professors are unable to adopt a hybrid model, they should be sending students lecture recordings or detailed slides with lecture notes if they need. A powerpoint slide with three bullet points isn’t good enough.
Students don’t want to come to campus sick and the university doesn’t want them to be here. For everyone to get what they want, Western needs to create a system where taking a sick day doesn’t leave students at a disadvantage.