On Dec. 31, Fabrice Labeau, McGill’s Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning), sent an email to the McGill community announcing that all learning except for Tier 1 activities would be held online until Jan. 24. Tier 1 activities include clinical activities, project courses, and various activities in music. This announcement follows recent health measures, including closing dining rooms and enforcing a curfew from 10 PM to 5 AM, which the Quebec Government implemented to help slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Basile Guichard, U3 Arts and executive director at Player’s Theatre, said he was ‘saddened’ when he heard that the second semester of his last year at McGill would be starting online.
“I felt so hopeful last semester where most of my classes were in person and we could enjoy the library and have in-person extracurriculars.” Guichard wrote in an email to //The McGill Tribune//. “I am very hopeful that we’ll be back in person, and [that] by the time the spring comes back, we as a community can enjoy Montreal and McGill fully.”
Some students are skeptical of a return to in-person teaching by Jan. 24. Marco Kim, U3 Arts and president of the Mcgill Students’ Anime Club, will have spent half of his time at McGill online by the time he graduates. Kim expects online classes to last until the end of February, considering the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant.
“It is very demotivating to miss out on such a large part of what I consider essential to the university experience” Kim wrote to the //Tribune//. “But what can be done? McGill does not have the power to stop the Omicron variant, only discretion in how to react to it. This is not how university was supposed to go, but we must endure as best we can.”
Sophie Hart, U4 Arts and founder of Mobilizing for Milton Parc (M4MP), explained she was surprised that it had taken McGill this long to shift to online schooling, especially when many universities in Ontario had already called off in-person exams and rescheduled them for the new year.
“I think it’s unacceptable that they kept exams in person for the entire exam period even when Montreal entered a state of emergency,” Hart said. “It seems like McGill is always multiple steps behind other universities’ safety measures, which puts students and staff at risk. I hope we stay online until I graduate in April.”
McGill student groups have found ways to adapt and keep members engaged through posting on social media and conducting events over Zoom. Kim explained that an important part of the Anime Club is the social interaction that it offers. Since the start of online teaching in 2020, they have become accustomed to hosting events online, often through Discord. SSMU (Students’ Society of McGill) have been responsive and have helped clubs through their adaptation.
“We will just go back to what we were doing in Fall 2020, not much will change.” Kim wrote. “We have adequate online resources for our events, though these are largely independent of McGill.The use of the SSMU email has been helpful though.”
Hart explained that she does not feel comfortable asking volunteers at M4MP to do in-person volunteering. However, volunteers will continue to prepare meals in their respective homes for The Open Door and other community serving organizations when requested.
“There’s less of a connection between volunteers and neighbours which is what we intend to build.” Hart wrote. “It’s extremely unfortunate, but the safety of our community is our first priority.”
Guichard finds that, despite difficulty staying motivated and optimistic during these times, he is comforted by the knowledge that he is not the only one going through this.
“I find comfort and resilience in my peers. This pandemic is something that, for better or for worse, is going to make all of us stronger and more ready for our futures.” Guichard said. “To the first-years, I want to say, don’t be discouraged, you’ll be able to have the ‘university experience’ before you know it.”