On Monday, January 24th, students returned in person for classes, which came as a surprise to some due to the massive outbreak of the Omicron variant that left Nova Scotia with record-breaking numbers. The decision made by Acadia University to return in person left students with mixed reactions, raising concerns for health and safety.
Before January 24th when it was just confirmed that the students and faculty would be back in the classroom, a few professors were quick to accommodate and help students with their concerns, continuing their courses in a hybrid approach to allow students the chance to choose if they wanted to return in person or not depending on their comfort. While these accommodations have been made in some courses, the vast majority have not received the same consideration.
Jill, a student at Acadia University, says she feels stressed about sitting in a classroom with a lot of people, especially while being someone with underlying health conditions: “I just feel that Acadia didn’t really think of how people with accessibility needs or compromised immune systems will deal with classes. I also find it hard to focus because I have so much health anxiety on top of it.” Like Jill, there are many other students who are uncomfortable with the sudden return to in person classes, with similar concerns that increase the need for more flexibility. Jill, along with many other students, has not received the requested flexibility and has had no choice but to return to class in person. “I don’t think it’s taken as seriously as it should be.”
The Acadia Student Union (ASU) sent out an email before the return to classes that gave students a chance to fill out a poll to address any of the concerns they had about the decision. In an Instagram post made by the ASU, they confirmed they had received over 2000 responses in a 72-hour period at that point in time, which resulted in a majority of 71% of students who expressed they were more comfortable with online classes. In that same post, the ASU stated that “the survey results show there is a clear need for increased flexibility and accommodation in the chosen mode of course delivery for the winter term.”
The ASU has openly said that they are in full support of students who want more flexibility and choice when it comes to how the rest of the winter semester will be delivered.