Return to campus: UVic answers student questions about fall semester

Campus News

UVic speaks to online classes, campus vaccine clinics, student housing outbreaks

David Strong Building with COVID-19 notices on the doors
COVID-19 notices at the entrance of the David Strong Building. The campus remains mostly deserted after UVic discontinued in-person classes in March. Photo by Michael John Lo.

With the start of fall classes just around the corner, UVic students have questions about returning to in-person learning. 

The Martlet’s Editor-in-Chief Kate Korte hosted an Instagram Live interview this morning with the co-chairs of UVic’s COVID-19 transition team Susan Lewis and Kane Kilbey to answer student’s questions about the fall return. Lewis is currently the acting vice-provost and Kilbey is the associate vice-president of human resources. 

Here’s what they had to say about online classes, possible outbreak risks, international students, and more. Most questions were pre-submitted by students on the Martlet’s instagram. 

Could in-person classes switch back to online if COVID-19 cases rise? 

Recently the Martlet calculated that only 13 percent of courses are being offered online this September. With in-person classes scheduled some students are wondering, “will my in-person classes suddenly switch back to online?”

Lewis said classes may need to switch to online delivery. She said that all the courses offered this fall have “online shells” that can be used to move back online if required to. 

“We are ready to do that if called to do so,” said Lewis. 

Lewis commented that UVic has planned for an emergency transition back to fully online learning if the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) makes that decision for the province. 

What happens if there’s an outbreak in UVic’s student residences?

UVic’s residence housing is expected to be nearly full this year. Kilbey said they are prepared to manage any COVID-19 outbreaks. 

“What’s happened in the past when we’ve had cases in student housing, because we had 800 students in housing over the past year, is that we work very closely with Island Health to manage those and to look after the students that are ill and to help those who need to self-isolate,” said Kilbey.

According to Kilbey, UVic has a strong partnership with Island Health and will follow their recommendations in the event of an outbreak in order to have an effective case-management process. 

Will there be vaccine clinics and COVID-19 testing available on campus?

UVic recently received confirmation from Island Health that UVic’s campus will have vaccine clinics through September, said Kilbey. 

While this is a recent development, Kilbey says there will be more information and details coming out about the UVic vaccine clinics in the coming days. Island Health also just announced that all immunization clinics are now on a walk-in basis, so anyone can get their first or second dose before the UVic clinic opens and classes are back. 

“We just want to make it as easy as possible for those who need a second dose or who need to start their vaccinations once they’re here,” added Lewis. 

Are students going to be safe in their in-person classes? 

With no restrictions at UVic for social distancing or masks in place for the fall, some students are wondering if attending their in-person lectures is going to be safe. 

Lewis commented that UVic has safety measures currently set up with more frequent cleaning protocols and updated ventilation systems to ensure quality air flow in the buildings. There is also a daily health check in place for students and UVic encourages all students to stay at home and off-campus if feeling sick. 

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible to support students who are absent from classes, encouraging instructors to make it easy to share materials where feasible,” said Lewis. 

What should International students from India do as they cannot enter the country before the start of classes? 

UVic students from India are anxious about missing their in-person lectures this fall as the Canadian federal government recently announced that it will be extending the ban on flights coming from India until September 21.

Lewis commented that she has been working with UVic’s deans and International Student Services to try to reach all those students who will be affected by the travel restrictions. 

“The faculties that are most heavily involved are working out plans to provide as much flexibility as possible for the start of the term as the students from India are obviously arriving late,” said Lewis. UVic is also working out what other possibilities they could make available if the students are not able to enter the country until January.

Will masks be mandatory? 

Although wearing face masks is currently a personal choice in the province, Kilbey commented that masks could be reintroduced into common areas and classrooms at some point. Kilbey said that UVic has encouraged the ministry and the PHO to put a mask mandate in place for September. 

“It seems like some of the public health planning assumptions that were going into the Restart Plan might not be materializing the way that were originally conceived,” said Kilbey. “So we’re going to need to add additional layers of protection to ensure the health and safety of our community, and masks seem like the most obvious one to introduce.” 

According to an update from President Kevin Hall, students can expect more provincial news on masks mandates for universities next week. 

Will syllabuses be sent to online students before the fall? 

Syllabuses and course onlines usually are handed to the students or made available online when the course holds its first class. 

“We have about 100 plus extra courses that are going fully online that would have normally been taught in-person, so [we’re] wanting to provide a few more opportunities to students who aren’t able to come to campus,” said Lewis.

She also added that UVic has heard that some students prefer online or hybrid learning over in-person and so the university is considering continuing to offer classes in those formats even after the pandemic.