As provinces relax pandemic regulations, most Canadian universities are expecting a return to campus life this autumn. Universities now have to crack down on house parties and homecoming crowds, in addition to the following protocol in crowded lecture halls.
To minimize the spread of Covid-19, each school must follow public health rules established by their government’s ministry of post-secondary education, and some are going even further by enacting vaccine mandates. So, what’s in store for students who are looking forward to experiencing the features of on-campus life? How will institutions strike a balance between student safety and a traditional college experience?
During this once-in-a-lifetime school year, seven Canadian colleges discussed their intentions for everything from vaccine regulations to air-filtration improvements to socially distant orientations.
Last month, schools returned to classrooms in varying degrees. According to a school spokeswoman, the University of Toronto, the country’s largest university, plans to offer in-person engagement for around 55% of its 16,000 courses this fall; the amount will vary dramatically among departments and depending on the nature of the program.
According to Janet Bryson, associate director, media relations and issue management at Dalhousie University, a considerably smaller school with roughly 20,000 students, most courses will be in-person with a small number online.
Students at the University of Toronto will be required to present proof of vaccination via the UCheck self-assessment site, demonstrating that they received their first dose by September 13 and their second shot by October 15.
Indoor masking will be required, and the University of Toronto has made “major changes” to its buildings, including enhanced air filtration with a minimum of six air changes per hour in classrooms. With the exception of individuals enduring unavoidable travel, permit, or quarantine delays, McGill will revert to around 85% in-person teaching activity and will ask students to be in Montreal for the start of term. Accommodations will be given to students and staff who are vulnerable and have necessary medical documents.
Halls of residence
Some colleges, such as the University of British Columbia, are reopening their doors to more students after months of decreased housing capacity. UBC Media Relations’ director of university affairs, Matthew Ramsey said “demand for student housing has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and the university is set to meet the maximum capacity of 12,500 resident beds”.
Students living in residence must be completely vaccinated against Covid-19, according to British Columbia regulations. Other schools are sticking to decreased residency capacities according to provincial health standards. Under single-occupancy limits, Dalhousie residences will be open at 80% full this autumn.
“Students may expect a return to on-campus events and programming” as long as health restrictions allow, adds Bryson, associate director at Dalhousie University. The final week of August provided a preview of what that might entail. The New to Dal program was created for first- and second-year students to “experience everything student life has to offer with a mix of in-person and virtual events,” according to the school.
The fun continued into the first week of school with in-person workshops on skill development for first-year students, as well as trivia, athletic, and karaoke events hosted by the student union. Students at the University of Toronto had a hybrid O-week that included more in-person activities in small groups for those living on campus. Other schools, like the University of Calgary, chose to stick to the programming which included a largely online orientation.
After a season off, many varsity players will return to the fields, courts, and rinks. Vaccinations for athletes are required in most schools, owing to the fact that many sports demand close contact. While many parts of campus life are affected by changing provincial health requirements, athletics is one that is affected by restrictions from neighbouring provinces. According to public health recommendations, certain schools, such as the University of Regina, are establishing audience capacity limits.