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McGill to return to in-person learning on January 24

Open letter denounces administration’s decision

On Friday, January 14, Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning Fabrice Labeau released a statement confirming that McGill will resume on-campus teaching activities on Monday, January 24. Here is a breakdown of the top takeaways:

  • Most classes will be in-person; lecture classes with over 200 students will remain online, with a few exceptions
  • Students are encouraged to get a third dose of the vaccine
  • Extracurricular activities must be conducted remotely
  • Rapid testing is now available to symptomatic students living in downtown campus residences

While Labeau acknowledged that students may be anxious about in-person activities, he noted that most COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated individuals are not severe. University administration is confident that in-person activities are able to resume safely because of McGill’s reportedly high levels of vaccination and the “many other layers of protection” that have been implemented, he continued. Labeau wrote that the university will provide more updates and information throughout the next week; the Daily will continue to follow the situation as it unfolds.

Advocacy & Accessibility

Shortly after Labeau’s statement was released, an open letter written by second-year Arts student Lavinia Auhoma and edited by VP University Affairs Claire Downie began circulating online. The letter’s demands include:

  • online alternatives to every class, and mandatory recorded lectures
  • a reopening plan with “detailed accounts of the methodology used for contact tracing [on] and off-campus”
  • the distribution of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as KN95 masks
  • flexible attendance requirements, so that students are not punished for missing class or in-person examinations

Although Labeau wrote that administration has “been receiving many emails and getting other feedback,” Auhoma points out that “the McGill student body at large has not been consulted or surveyed” about the decision of when to return to campus. She also responds to Labeau’s statement that most COVID cases in fully vaccinated individuals are not severe: “An assumption that most students will not be seriously harmed if infected […] is ableist and contributes to McGill’s devaluing of disabled students and community members.” The letter goes on to point out that Concordia has made the decision to remain online until February 2, just as other Canadian universities have extended the duration of remote learning. In a reference to Labeau’s suggestion that students “do something relaxing […] Go outside, call a friend, meditate,” the letter concludes that “Going outside, meditating, and calling a friend is not enough when the University is systematically failing us.”

In an email statement to the Daily, Auhoma said that the response to the open letter has been “overwhelmingly supportive,” with over 600 signatures as of Saturday, January 15. “I understand the limitations of an open letter […] but it’s remarkable that […] people have been listening,” she wrote, commenting on students’ pessimism regarding online activism. 

Auhoma sympathized with students concerned about the drawbacks to remote learning: “I started school in the pandemic and got my ‘university experience’ taken away before it even began.” As such, she wrote that the university should be giving students the option of safely returning to school or continuing their studies online. She also worried that the university is pointing towards students’ mental health concerns as a justification for reopening school, without actually meeting students’ needs: “McGill needs to prove that they actually care about mental health by providing safety nets and accommodations.” 

Auhoma further criticized the claim that the Omicron variant is mild, characterizing it as “dangerously ableist […] speculative and harmful” rhetoric. She pointed out that regardless of the severity of the virus, most students likely want to avoid sickness; if school reopens and mass absenteeism ensues because of widespread illness, there is little point in returning, per Auhoma. Additionally, she expressed concern that McGill’s lack of flexibility will incentivize sick students to attend class, claiming that testimony collected through the form attached to the open letter included ill students concerned that they would be pressured to return to school before fully recovering. She encouraged members of the McGill community who want to advocate further to attend student union meetings or Q&A sessions with McGill administration, and to monitor the news.

McGill needs to prove that they actually care about mental health by providing safety nets and accommodations.

Lavinia Auhoma

SSMU has begun some work to prepare for the return to campus – the VP University Affairs portfolio published a Google Form through which students can submit information about the in-person requirements of their courses. Responses are being compiled in a spreadsheet; according to the form, the project is intended to help students unable to attend school in-person to choose courses that meet their needs.

Additionally, SSMU’s Board of Directors passed a motion to allocate $8,000 towards the purchase of N95 or KN95 masks on January 6, as reported by The McGill Tribune. Details about this motion to come.

Booster Shot Information

While Quebec currently only requires two doses of the vaccine for an individual to be considered “adequately protected,” the government will require three doses “once the entire population has had a chance to receive their booster shot.” Here’s how to receive or register your booster shot.

To receive your booster shot: book an appointment on Clic Santé by choosing the “COVID Vaccine – 3rd dose” option in the “Select a Service” menu; if you are not covered by RAMQ, choose “COVID Vaccine – Troubleshooting.” Alternatively, find a walk-in clinic on the Santé Montréal website.

To register a booster shot from outside of Quebec: schedule an appointment at a designated vaccination centre on Clic Santé by choosing the “COVID Vaccine – Troubleshooting” option in the “Select a Service” menu. Bring a piece of ID and proof of vaccination; once your vaccine has been verified, your passport will be updated.

What to do if You’re Symptomatic

  • Do not come to campus. You can find Montreal pharmacies distributing rapid tests through the Quebec government’s directory.
  • If you are living in residence on the downtown campus, you can receive a rapid test by booking an appointment online through the link that was emailed by Student Housing and Hospitality Services.
    • Tests are being given at Carrefour Sherbrooke Ballroom, New Residence Hall Ballroom, and the main floor McConnell Hall Common Room. Choose the location closest to your residence.
    • Bring your student ID to verify that you live in residence.
    • If you test positive, Student Housing and Hospitality Services will contact you with information about how to isolate.
    • Macdonald campus residences do not yet have rapid testing services, but per Labeau’s statement, a rapid testing program will be implemented there in the coming weeks.
  • Isolate. This means you must stay home, and avoid interacting with other people if possible – wear a mask and practice 2 metre social distancing if you share an indoor space with others.
    • Quebec’s recommended isolation period is five days for fully-vaccinated individuals, ten days for those who are not fully-vaccinated, and 21 days for immunosuppressed individuals (regardless of vaccination status).
    • To apply for short-term academic accommodations, use the COVID-19 Academic Considerations Request Form found in the Personal Menu on Minerva.
  • If you were on campus within the 48 hours prior to developing symptoms, call the Case Management Group at 514-398-3000.
    • Case management staff will provide information about next steps and resources.