International students raise concern over Fall 2021 in-person add/drop period

Travel restrictions, immigration concerns, and quarantine requirements, such as the compulsory three-day hotel stay, are among the uncertainties McGill’s international students have expressed concern about regarding travel to Montreal for the Fall 2021 term. Some international students are pushing for a remote delivery option for the add/drop period so that they will not have to arrive two weeks before the semester begins.  

The announcement that students are expected to return to campus for Fall 2021 will require that students arrive in Canada 14 days before classes begin to fulfill the government-mandated quarantine period. Sasha Sloan, U2 Arts and an international student, expressed concern about having to arrive early. 

“As international students, this puts us at a disadvantage compared to local or Canadian students,” Sloan said. “We already have financial disadvantages associated [with] COVID-19, such as PCR tests and […] a mandated three-day hotel stay.”

With some classes during the add/drop period—Sept. 1 to Sept. 15—being held in-person, students who want to attend those first two weeks of class must arrive 14 days before the academic year begins. Sloan launched a petition in May 2021 that calls on the McGill administration to make accommodations for international students, such as allowing students who may be quarantined during the first two weeks of classes to attend some lectures remotely. 

I have discussed [accomodations] with multiple international students [and] we are not asking the university to make the add/drop period 100 per cent online,” Sloan said. “[We do ask] that they accommodate students using functions already in place so […] the large international student population may be up to date in their coursework during the two weeks of add/drop and quarantine.”

Outgoing Vice-President University Affairs of the Students’ Society of McGill (SSMU) Brooklyn Frizzle believes the McGill administration can provide some accommodations, but noted that the university has been standing firmly behind their expectation that students be present on campus for the Fall semester.

“From our conversations with McGill administration, […] students who need to miss class for COVID-19–related reasons will be accommodated without needing a medical note,” Frizzle said. “We have yet to see any formal plan or commitment to accommodating students who cannot be on campus for whatever reason.”

Frédérique Mazerolle, a McGill media relations officer, stated the university acknowledges that international students might encounter obstacles while travelling, such as having to arrive earlier than their peers.

“We recognize that some international students may face some challenges when travelling to Montreal for the Fall 2021 term,” Mazerolle said. “International students may need to arrive somewhat earlier.” 

Mazerolle explained that academic accommodations might be made in special circumstances if a student’s class performance is negatively affected by COVID-19–related circumstances. She also stated that some lectures may be recorded.

“Students may need additional academic support at the start of the term, and this will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” Mazerolle said. “Some lectures may be available online if the course is offered in a room that is equipped with a lecture-recording system, and instructors teaching online in the Fall will be encouraged to record lectures.”

Sloan believes that international students would benefit from an expansion of current accommodations to acknowledge the potential mental and academic stress of arriving early to quarantine. 

“McGill could solve this issue in a heartbeat by taking the time to listen to their international student body,” Sloan said. “We should not have to decide between focussing on our mental health and our families over the summer or on being up-to-date with coursework during add/drop at the cost of the former.”

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