Letter to the Editor: January 24

Dear Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic),

Thank you for responding to my initial email but I take issue with all of your major points (you should consider updating your rather outdated form response).

I’m wondering that because Kingston initially had the highest case counts per capita in the country, the decision to delay the return to in class learning was politically expedient rather than scientific. The focus was purely on the perception of the local community and completely off the students.  Obviously, Queen’s panicked over case counts and was the only school to delay to the end of February without evidence to support such a long delay.  All forecasts showed rapid spread and rapid burnout of the omicron wave as we are currently seeing.

I understand that you, like everyone else, were focused on the capacity of the local hospital system.  The Kingston hospital system was never overrun and as of January 11th, they have been on a downwards trend.  As of January 19th, there are only 14 people hospitalized for covid in Kingston out of a population of over 172 000.  Current forecasts show we have peaked in case counts and will peak in hospital stays in the next 1-2 weeks regardless of restrictive measures. The Ford government is already easing inside numbers and activities. Elementary and secondary schools, where there is no vaccination requirement for students, are fully open.  Contrast this to universities where all students must be vaccinated in order to attend.  Public health officials now have a very good grasp of the increased transmissibility, case counts, possible decreased lethality, local transmission rates, and hospitalizations.  That’s why everything is opening up including most universities on January 31st, with the lone exception of Queen’s.

There is no longer any significant risk to the students, community, and local health care system from the Queen’s community who are fully vaccinated.

Queen’s students are currently trapped in ghetto house bedrooms with no classes, library or physical activity venues for mental health relief.  This is a ticking time bomb which the university seems to be callously discounting. This is certainly not putting your students first, which, given that you are a university, should be your primary objective.

You pointed out that you also received guidance from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, requesting that you consider temporarily changing the mode of delivery in January from in-person to virtual – with limited exceptions in certain programs.  However, the Ministry gave you no such direction for February.

If you are not able to move up the start date for in person classes, I would suggest that you should consider giving students a partial refund on their tuition and residence and food.  Online learning is a poor substitute for in person classes and it’s not what students signed up for.  Last year, students were told not to return last January but there was no reimbursement for residence fees or the food program which still charged full rates despite not providing any food.  They paid for many student services which were completely unavailable to them.  Despite the pandemic, Queen’s had a surplus of $144 million last year.  How much of that was from services that students paid for but never received?

I hope that alter your course for the benefit of your students and professors and community, and return to in person classes on January 31st like most other universities.  If you don’t do this, then you should redirect some of last year’s $144 million surplus to reimbursement to students for not providing the services that they paid for.  Financial relief might help their mental health.

Yours sincerely,

 

Anthony Peterson

Alumni

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