Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the UVSS has continued to advocate for the safety and accessibility needs of students at the University of Victoria. We support UVic’s decision to shift from in-person exams to online exams or alternative arrangements — something that students have been asking for since last week’s rise in COVID-19 cases on campus.
Many students were alarmed by the recent outbreak and lack of support, transparency, and notice provided by the University of Victoria. Exams are already a stressful time for students, only made more stressful by concerns over potential COVID-19 spread. We were glad to see decisive action from the University on Sunday evening—and although many students wish it had come sooner, the decision to no longer have in-person exams helps to ease student concerns and keep us safe. It’s important to note that the Access4All campaign, run by the Society for Students with a Disability, has been advocating UVic to implement a hybrid mode of class delivery for many months now. Hybrid classes would alleviate some of these barriers to education and stress inducing factors caused by the shift to online examinations. Many students, staff, and faculty have expressed support for hybrid classes!
The UVSS appreciates the effort from UVic to be more transparent about COVID-19 cases on campus and hope they continue doing so with more contingency and pandemic planning measures, informed by students, staff and faculty, in place to prevent sudden and stress-inducing shifts in the future. The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant demonstrates the heightened importance of having contingency planning in place, ready for swift and responsive action at the onset of an outbreak. We are all trying to navigate these unprecedented times, and the UVSS’ objective is to seek a clear and transparent process that ensures that the students and the UVic community at large are safe. Below we have outlined our asks of the UVic Administration following this most recent COVID-19 outbreak and other actionable requests as we move forward into the new year.
- The University should be taking transparent proactive, not reactive, measures to ensure the safety of UVic students. To ease stress for students, staff, and teaching assistants, we request that UVic have a concrete action plan, accompanied by a communications plan, to proactively manage future outbreaks. UVic community members should be made aware when cases occur and should know what steps the University plans to take to keep them safe.
- Information on cases, clusters, and outbreaks should be located at a centralized, up-to-date webpage accessible to the campus community. Clear messaging and an action plan should be immediately communicated across UVic’s platform when COVID-19 cases occur within the campus community.
- We ask UVic to communicate their plans for the Winter 2022 semester as soon as possible, as many students need to plan ahead for January.
- We ask professors to give grace for students during this December exam period by allowing faculty to grade holistically (i.e. reflect on student’s performance throughout the term).
- We ask that the administration look into pass/fail options for future semesters to give students more grace and options.
- In addition to this, there are many students whose studies have been affected by COVID-19 for various reasons that pass/fail options don’t work for. For example, students moving on to grad school who need grades on their transcript and students who have renewable scholarships who need certain GPA averages to renew their scholarships.We ask that UVic also create alternative options to pass/fail for students whose grades have been affected by COVID-19, but still need their GPA to be accurate.
- We ask that UVic continues to include on transcripts the note stating “this semester was taken during COVID-19 pandemic” on the affected semesters.
The safety of our campus is a shared responsibility and one we hope everyone in the UVic community will continue to take seriously. We know many students have been cautious throughout these months, but we are also seeing how quickly transmission can occur and a situation can escalate. UVic is responsible for managing the university with the safety of students, staff, and faculty at the forefront a during a global pandemic, which is undoubtedly difficult. The UVSS remains committed to advocating and working with UVic to ensure our campus is safe and accessible for all students.
Long before this recent event, the Society for Students with a Disability’s Access4All campaign has requested and advocated for hybrid learning with online options to ensure students at greater risk for COVID-19, or who face barriers from in-person learning have equitable access to education. On Friday December 17th 2021, the SSD released this statement regarding this issue and how it disproportionately impacts students with a disability and the UVSS continues to support their actionable requests.