After Queen’s made what Principal Patrick Deane called a “momentous shift” to remote learning on March 30, some students found their new academic reality fell short of the experience they paid for.
Launched on April 4, a petition advocating for a partial tuition refund has been circulating online. Organized by Asfanul Hasib, Comm ’23, and Brandon Gusain, Comm ’23, the petition pushes Queen’s to acknowledge the emotional and financial burdens the COVID-19 pandemic has caused students by partially reimbursing their tuition.
Both Hasib and Gusain were involved in organizing an earlier petition that advocated for the introduction of pass/fail options during the winter semester. They believe students deserve a partial refund, alleging remote learning has failed to provide students with the complete university experience they pay for through their tuition.
“You can’t engage in discussions with anyone, like you would in a class. We can’t study on campus at Stauffer, use facilities such as the ARC or Kingston’s bus service,” Hasib wrote in a statement to The Journal. “I understand we are in perturbing times, but it’s imperative to remember what Queen’s promised students when they paid their tuition fees.”
Beyond sharing the petition on social media, Hasib and Gusain said they’ll be emailing Principal Patrick Deane and Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green to advocate for a partial refund for all students in the Queen’s community.
According to Hasib, his experience with remote learning was a lot different from his initial expectations and the transition to the new system was “a blur.”
Hasib thought he would have online classes for every course, but he said some of his professors only uploaded slides and asked students to teach themselves the material.
“I had to keep at least seven tabs open on my browser to make sure I didn’t miss any information being passed from the professors,” Hasib wrote, describing communication as being less fluid than it was when they were conducting in-person classes.
An international student, Hasib was unable to return home following the University’s decision to close physical learning spaces.
“I’m from Bangladesh. Due to COVID-19, my flight was cancelled and my country closed its borders,” Hasib wrote. “It feels depressing, as I may not be able to see my family this summer.”
Gusain, who returned home to Scarborough after the shift to remote learning was announced, shared similar disappointment with online classes, saying many of his professors stopped holding formal lectures during the period of remote learning.
He said students pay tuition with the understanding they’re paying for something of equal value. As a Commerce student who pays approximately $18,000 in tuition each year, he believes Queen’s is able to justify much of this expense because of the high-quality teaching Smith “prides itself in,” the peer-based learning classes, and the resources Smith offers.
“I don’t feel like I’ve received [these resources] since most of campus closed due to the pandemic,” Gusain wrote. “I feel like I paid Queen’s for a certain quality of education that they haven’t provided in the past month.”
Outside of Commerce, Gusain said there are students across the University who are also suffering from the transition to remote learning, such as those living in different time zones who have to attend online lectures in the middle of the night, those lacking consistent access to the internet, and those relying on the ability to rent electronics from on-campus services.
He also pointed to science students who use labs to demonstrate their learning, music students who need to practice with their ensembles, and drama students who need a physical learning environment to refine their craft.
The petition primarily focuses on addressing the new barriers students are facing to finance their education, specifically looking at the impact the pandemic will have on students’ ability to find summer jobs that provide necessary income for paying tuition.
According to Hasib, some students will likely need to take a term off from school if they can’t find work.
While he acknowledged the new Bursary Assistance program for COVID-19 related extenuating circumstances launched by the University, Hasib believes there’s an “issue of eligibility” for those trying to access the resource because of the “gatekeepers” who decide which applicants will receive funds.
1,060 individuals have signed the petition at the time of publication.
“These students deserve some kind of reimbursement from Queen’s for not getting the quality of education they thought they would,” Gusain wrote.
Covid-19, petition, Student experience, tuition
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