Dual petitions argue for different learning directions at Western University
As education models continue to pivot towards in-person learning, Western announced its return to in-person learning on Friday, and reaction has led to two different petitions with over 2,000 signatures.
Layla Adrianovska is nearing the end of her program at Western University. Six months before COVID-19 she developed serious medical issues that make a return to class very difficult.
“I can't sit on a hard chair and focus for three hours you know with bright lights and all this noise. So just be able to be at home in my bed with my computer, comfortable. I have any kind of pain relief tools I need. It's like, literally the reason I've been able to stay in school.”
She is part of a petition that has accumulated over 2,000 signatures as of Sunday afternoon, calling on Western to allow more exemptions and a broader hybrid learning model.
“It's a matter of accessibility. You know, it's not like I'm requesting something absurd. It's literally the difference between an education or not for a lot of people, and they just don't seem to care,” says Adrianovska.
Western announced Friday the the majority of students from second year and higher will be returning to in-person learning at the end of January.
“Western is known for offering students one of the best on-campus experiences and a lot of students are missing that,” says John Doerksen, Western’s Acting Provost & Vice-President (Academic). “Obviously, we recognize people are divided in their opinion. So we're just hoping that a measured plan will see us through the academic year and ensure the best possible teaching and learning experiences for our community.”
Rosa Pashaei-Barbin, a fourth year criminology student, suffered severe injuries in a car accident in 2020 that still affect her today. She believes Western should be considering a hybrid model as well.
“It could be as simple as literally putting their phone out recording the lecture, audio and thinking, 'OK, I'll upload that.' So I think, you know, just the the issue that it does pose to a variety of students, it would be...more than ideal for Western to give the option.”
Western says there are options for people who have extenuating circumstances.
“Students can follow up with their academic counsellors with the with the Accessible Education Unit, where there are specific concerns,” Doerksen says.
One group of students who will not be able to return until the end of February is first-year students, who have launched a separate petition calling on the university to allow them to return to residence.
“Residence allows us to have places like study rooms, something that we can't get at home, any of us, and just be on campus with the library as libraries are open at Western. So it's just really hard for many of us don't live nearby,” says first-year student Chloe Vanderlugtt.
Western says in terms of congregate living situations, it wanted to limit the chance of the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreading.
“For first-year students at Western, many of them are in residence. And so we wanted to minimize the number of people in residence because we have shared rooms and washrooms and so we wanted to limit that a little bit," says Doerksen.
According to the university's update on Friday, all in-person classes from second year and up will resume on Jan. 31, while first year undergraduate programs will resume on Feb. 28.
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