Queen’s must commit to a plan for the fall term

students wearing masks in a classroom

As Queen’s decides how and when to implement its back-to-campus framework, it’s vital the University is realistic and transparent about what the fall and winter terms might look like. Given how unpredictable the pandemic has been, committing to an online or hybrid year is the best call.

Queen’s is currently in the planning phase for whether or not the vaccine will be made mandatory for students returning to campus next term. In a perfect world, students should be immunized before anything remotely close to “normal” resumes on campus. That said, when exactly every student will have access to the vaccine is still uncertain.

Those with severe allergies are being advised against taking the Pfizer vaccine, meaning some students may have to wait for an alternate dose. Vaccinations in Canada have been slow, and for international students currently living abroad, vaccinations might not be available at the same time they are here.

All in all, the state of vaccinations in the fall is unpredictable. Queen’s must keep this in mind when making its decisions regarding course delivery.

Vaccinations play a significant role in the fight against COVID-19, but they don’t mean everything can miraculously return to normal. It’s still recommended that those vaccinated wear masks, as it’s uncertain whether a vaccinated individual can still spread the virus.

Vaccines are doing their job, but we still have a long way to go to get back to “normal.” Campus won’t look the same it did pre-pandemic for a while, and certainly not by September. It’s important the University own that.

Given that it’s currently acceptance season, and that many students are solidifying their housing plans for next year, Queen’s must be transparent about what the fall term will look like. In the opinion of The Journal Editorial Board, the University should bite the bullet and declare an online or hybrid year before students get trapped in leases or residence plans.

Logistically, it’s impossible to determine whether every student will be able to physically return to campus in the fall or even winter term. Considering current travel restrictions, differing vaccination plans in various countries, and ever-changing public health guidelines, a complete return to campus is unlikely. Most campus buildings are also not equipped for proper ventilation or physical distancing.

Instead of leaving students in the dark or committing to a back-to-campus plan they can’t guarantee, Queen’s should commit to making classes online or hybrid. Doing otherwise would only disadvantage students who either may not feel safe returning to campus in September, or who physically can’t. International students have just as much a right to return to the lecture halls as domestic students, and Queen’s shouldn’t prioritize one group over the other.

The world is unpredictable as is; students don’t need further uncertainty. Knowing for sure that classes will be online or hybrid next year would at least give students much-needed stability when planning for the months ahead.

Students have to make decisions about their fall term plans now. The University should have to do the same.

Journal Editorial Board

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