After months of being back in the classroom, students at Carleton University are heading back online.
The university made the shift this week, to the dismay of students who went online to express their frustrations.
Jennifer Ramnarine, president of the Carleton Academic Student Government, told The Sam Laprade Show on Friday that the group — which acts as a liaison between the college and its students — wasn’t consulted on the decision.
“It was such a big change without having such an explanation for it,” Ramnarine said. “It’s left people with shock and confusion and disappointment, and I think that’s why we’re seeing such a strong reaction to this now.”
In fact, Ramnarine said she was just as surprised to see the email in her student inbox as anyone else.
“Early into the fall, Carleton opened our registration for courses in the winter semester, and at the time, Carleton expected that the safety risk in the pandemic would be much less of a threat by the winter,” she said. “So, when students were picking our courses, they allowed us to do a ‘HyFlex’ system and picked whether we wanted (classes) completely online or completely in person or nuanced variations of that.
“And at that time, students picked what was best for them.”
For some, Ramnarine said, online made sense — they worked multiple jobs, had families or life kept them busy in other ways.
For others, however, they wanted to return to campus and have their education continue along with in-person instruction.
A lot of students, she continued, opted for online options, and Carleton allowed for everyone who had chosen those options to go forward with them, but were expecting the university to be up and running by the winter.
As the pandemic worsened, the Carleton Scenario and Planning Team said they wouldn’t be able to offer as many in-person classes as the school originally expected.
“Months go by and then earlier this week, Carleton sends an email telling students their course delivery methods have changed,” she said. “That’s hard for a lot of students, especially for those students who registered for those courses and made the arrangements months ago to be back in Ottawa for the winter semester.”
The implications of this, Ramnarine said, is more than just educational opportunities — but financial and mental wellness, as well as the quality of education suffering.
When the student government approached administration and sat down with decision-makers — these sit-downs, Ramnarine said, were progressive.
“Over the past couple of days I’ve been meeting with the administration and I’m happy that we’ve already been getting a better idea of the situation and the explanation as to why we had to go online,” she said. “They have communicated to students that if you’re facing of wanting to go back in person and possible change, you can email the registrar, and they’re actively working right now… to try and reopen more spaces in person to meet that accommodation.”
And while other universities are progressing, a question Ramnarine said she hears a lot is, “why is Carleton moving backwards?”
“The response of the administration has always been that it’s been their priority to make sure that the health and safety of students are first. So, even if right now, Ottawa Public Health or the Ontario government says physical distancing limits can be lifted or to have vaccine policy — in the case of Carleton, you do have to be double vaccinated — the question is less so, ‘can we,' for the university, It’s, ‘should we?’