The students and faculty of Ryerson University are set to resume in-person learning, but some students and staff disagree with the school’s lack of online or hybrid options.
Jan. 31 marked the first day of Ryerson’s “gradual return to campus,” with all classes expected to be completely in person by Feb. 28.
Both students and staff have penned open letters to the university, voicing their concerns with the decisions. They explained that with only two months left in the semester, is not worth it to make these big changes.
Serena Quang, a third-year Ryerson student in the graphic communications management program, said that people who get COVID-19 during the remaining two months of the semester would need to quarantine at home and require online resources, since “there’s no way they can simply pause their education.”
“There are some people who quite literally are unable to get the vaccine because of allergy concerns or other medical concerns,” she said.
“And then there are people, such as myself, who have a weakened immune system and are at a higher risk for contracting the virus, no matter how careful they are.”
The petition “Give Ryerson (X) University Students the Option to Continue Online” has currently gathered more than 11,000 signatures.
The writeup explains the challenges international students are experiencing, as well as the dangers of travelling on busy public transit vehicles during the pandemic.
“Not everyone will have the ability to return in person, and X University is doing their students a great disservice by stripping away the choice to continue online on such short notice,” it reads.
The petition refers to Ryerson as X because of the involved role the university’s namesake, Egerton Ryerson, had in the Canadian Residential School System. The university last summer announced it will change its name.
Quang, who gets to Ryerson via Go Train, said she doesn’t feel safe commuting, especially “during rush hour because those trains can get pretty packed.”
She also said she has seen riders wearing their masks incorrectly or in some cases, not wearing a mask at all, despite face coverings being mandatory on all Go Transit vehicles.
When Toronto Observer reporters contacted Ryerson for a comment, university officials referred to a statement.
“It has always been the University’s intention to return to in-person classes and campus activities as soon as it is deemed safe to do so,” the statement reads.
“In light of the ongoing direction provided by public health authorities, the University is confident that a gradual return to campus activities is safe.”
According to a Jan. 28 article by Ryerson Today, an online newsletter published by the university, all entrances of the university are locked and can only be accessed by tapping a “OneCard” which is only issued to members of the Ryerson community. Additionally, all members on campus must “be vaccinated, … wear a well-fitted mask indoors … and complete a daily health screening.”
However, in that same article, Ryerson states “physical distancing not required in indoor instructional spaces” and does not mention anything regarding reduced class sizes.