Mixed reactions from students, faculty over fully in-person classes

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By Aditi Roy

Ryerson students returned to the classroom on Feb. 28 after two years of online learning and some have expressed mixed feelings about being back on campus.

On Jan. 19, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi announced the university would switch entirely to in-person classes by Feb. 28.

Yanika Saluja, a first-year journalism student, said “It’s so much nicer to be in the classroom instead of staring at your laptop in a secluded room.”

“I could finally meet my professors and interact with my classmates in-person. It makes a world of difference to be in the same environment,” Saluja added. 

Rayyan Khan, a first-year engineering student, echoed Saluja’s sentiments: “I am happy about the reintroduction of in-person classes; I have been able to visit all my classes at least three times and familiarize myself with the campus.”

While some students expressed happiness about returning to in-person classes, others are still wary about being back on campus. 

This concern is reflected in several petitions and open letters that students have initiated to advocate against the full re-opening of the school. 

A change.org petition titled “Give Ryerson (X) University Students the Option to Continue Online,” has garnered 11,846 signatures to date. Ryerson’s public health associate professor Ian Young also penned an open letter calling on the school to reconsider its decision to fully reopen.

In an email to The Eyeopener, Ryerson said the university’s decisions “continue to be guided by its commitment to the health and safety of community members.”

“Over the course of the pandemic, the university has developed robust health and safety protocols that we continually update in alignment with public health guidance,” the statement read.

However, Ryerson’s implementation of its public health measures hasn’t provided comfort to all of its students. 

Yana Showket, a first-year undeclared arts student who attended the 2021 fall semester in-person, felt as though the Ryerson faculty was not taking adequate precautions. 

“There should be more regulations in place; the third dose should be mandatory,” said Showket.

“This decision feels very abrupt and rushed. After all, we are in the middle of the school year,” said Angel Agbontaen, a first-year journalism student.

Darcy Ballantyne, an assistant professor in the English department, said she understands why the university would want people back on campus. “On the other hand,” she said, “my primary concern is safety. I feel nervous about being in a large classroom with 50 to 65 students.” 

In addition to safety issues, several community members have expressed confusion on the COVID-19 guidelines Ryerson has in place.

“I don’t think as a whole the Ryerson faculty has communicated the guidelines in a timely fashion,” said first-year journalism student Scott Martin. “With all the information flying around, there is still confusion about the logistics of classes.”

Ballantyne added she would have appreciated “a faster and more complete flow of information.” However, Ballantyne also attributed this feeling of unfamiliarity to being a new faculty member at Ryerson. 

Another concern community members had regarding the re-opening of the school was the lack of accessibility for international students.

“As an international student, I was frustrated at times with the changing reopening dates, as we have the burden of moving to a different country altogether,” said Khan, who is from India. 

Professional communication assistant professor David Colangelo stressed the importance of accessibility. “I chose a hybrid learning module and argued that it was an equity issue because there would be lots of students that still wouldn’t be able to have arrived in Canada and get settled.”

Commuters have also said they feel unsettled being exposed to large groups of people on transit.

Economics professor John Isbister said that “the rules on campus don’t apply to the commute because we don’t have control over what we encounter.”

“As a commuter, I am scared about how crowded the TTC is going to be now that students are coming to school,” said Agbontaen. 

“It is important to understand that not everyone can make it to school,” added Agbontaen.

Some Ryerson community members said they believe a hybrid model or option would help rectify some concerns about the return.

“Connection between students and faculty is just one of the many pieces that go into creating an optimal learning environment, but they can also be done online,” said Colangelo.

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