McGill, News

McGill residences facing greater restrictions amid COVID-19 surge

The Winter 2022 semester has started off in uncertainty as the Omicron variant gives rise to unprecedented COVID-19 case numbers and the university moves to implement new restrictions.

In a Jan. 4 email, Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS) informed students in residences that dining halls, gyms, and common areas would be closed indefinitely and that residents could only entertain one guest, from their same residence, at a given time. For residents in double rooms, no guests are allowed. Despite recognizing that public safety is a priority, residents have voiced concerns about widespread mental health problems, reporting feeling discouraged, disappointed, and neglected by both Quebec policymakers and McGill. 

Many students have opted to stay home for the duration of online learning, while others have returned to Montreal: McGill recently reported a presence of approximately 6,000 employees and students on campus per day. 

Kendal Williams, U0 Education, is among those who choose to return to campus. In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Williams detailed feeling isolated by SHHS restrictions to the detriment of her mental health.

“We can’t have dinner with a friend because [the] cafeteria is closed, we can’t study with a peer because we can’t have anyone over into our dorm room, we can’t go work out to help our mental health because the gym is closed, and we can’t go to a common room to see a friend or study because it is closed,” Williams said. “Overall this wave of COVID-19 has affected us all, but with the strict restrictions placed by [SHHS], it is only making students’ mental health worse.”

Solin Hall resident Alice Dubois, U1 Arts, echoed a similar statement when she spoke to the Tribune, stating that the restrictions exacerbate existing mental health issues.

“Online classes are depressing enough, plus seasonal depression,” Dubois said. “If we can’t spend time with our friends in our apartments, or even go to libraries to change environments and have a place to focus, this is going to be a really rough semester.”

Marketing communication manager of SHHS, Monique Lauzon, detailed the support channels currently accessible to students.

“Our residence life team, composed of floor fellows and residence life manager and our mental health counsellor (residence LWA), actively supports students in need through different events and programming activities,” Lauzon wrote in an email to the Tribune. “As well, we help to orient students to the appropriate mental health resources that are available through McGill’s Student Services / Wellness Hub.” 

Of the services Lauzon mentioned, the Wellness Hub is notoriously challenging to access. Lauzon also reiterated that administrators are doing what they can and delivering updates to residents when possible.

“We rely on the government for directives,” Lauzon wrote. “Our priority is to dispense accurate updates to both students and staff in a timely fashion [….] We also reinforce messaging via our social media platforms and digital screens.”

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