While the idea of returning to on-campus classes at the end of the month is an important educational step for many students, the return to campus plan fails to account for the safety and success of many more vulnerable students.
Western University announced on Friday afternoon that in-person classes will resume on Jan. 31 for upper-year and graduate courses, while first-year students will continue online learning until residence capacity limits lift in late February.
There’s no denying that students are burned out from nearly two years of locking down and returning to class. The quality of education of in-person classes is much higher for many students. It offers the opportunity for collaboration, face-to-face interaction and staying after class to ask questions.
Being online has been isolating for many people — bringing classes back to in-person learning could be highly beneficial for student mental health. There’s also only so long that students are willing to pay full price for tuition when their education is entirely Zoom-based.
That being said, the return to campus plan has left a lot to be desired.
There are questions left unanswered about student safety. While the return to in-person class is exciting for most, the lack of a hybrid option for classes means disabled and immunocompromised students have to make decisions that could put their educational future – and even life – in danger.
Many classes at Western have a large participation component that could be detrimental to students’ grades if they are unable to attend due to illness. If we want to keep students safe and prevent them from coming to class while sick, then students should have the option to supplement participation components with an alternative assignment or remove them altogether.
In order to have a safe, successful second semester, accommodations need to be made. Students need to have access to hybrid models and the ability to stay home when they are sick without academic repercussions.
It’s the right move to go back to in-person classes. But in order for it to be the right move for everyone, Western needs to be flexible to account for both student health and student experience