Students at one of the Lower Mainland’s largest universities staged a walkout on Monday (Jan. 24) to protest a return to class while COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain high.
The walkout took place as Simon Fraser University (SFU) returned to in-class learning for the first time this year. The petition, which as of Monday afternoon had been signed by more than 4,400 people, stated that with the number of cases on the rise, many students do not feel safe returning to class.
“Since SFU is not equipped with audio/visual recording systems in every classroom, nor are all instructors willing to record their lectures, with the current decision of SFU, students are forced to go to school despite their discomfort,” the petition reads. “Students will need to transit to SFU, which means they need to be in contact with strangers that may or may not have COVID. If any one student in the classroom is sick, all other students are at risk.”
Balqees Jama, president of the SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, spoke at the walkout, saying that students need hybrid learning options and rapid testing at campuses.
“We’re all here today to make our voices heard,” Jama said.
She read out a letter from Simran Sarai, an immunocompromised entrance scholar.
“As an SFU community member whose condition makes me clinically extremely vulnerable… I am outraged,” Sarai’s letter stated. “Returning to in-person classes whie Omicron continues to run rampant is a slap in the face to faculty, students and staff who are disabled, immunocompromised or have family members who are at high risk of negative outcomes and long-term effects from COVID-19.”
Sarai noted that while cases may be beginning to go down, the thousands of cases each day still pose too high a risk for on-campus learning.
“Why shouldn’t we extend online learning for at least a few weeks following the steps taken by UBC?”
The University of B.C. is extending online learning until Feb. 7.
Students are demanding remote learning options and access to COVID-19 testing.
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More than half of participants surveyed said they had experienced online harassment and threats