On January 19, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) hosted their annual Town Hall Meeting, where students were invited to attend via Zoom. During the meeting, several issues were addressed such as the return to in-person classes that was announced to begin on January 31.
Students were also invited to submit their questions to the university’s Instagram account, @UofTMississauga, via Direct Message. For more questions, the university held a question and answer (Q&A) session for participating students.
During the meeting, the university announced that in-person learning will officially resume on February 7, as opposed to January 31. Principal of UTM and Vice-President of U of T Alexandra Gillespie took this time to discuss the current Covid-19 situation.
“Covid-19 is not likely to go away this winter, but it’s also going to be with us next fall and winter, and probably for many seasons to come,” Principal Gillespie states.
Principal Gillespie also considers why it is important to follow the advice of health officials for the safety of the UTM community. As Harvard Chan School of Public Health’s Dr. Lowe indicates, most UTM classrooms meet, or exceed the ideal standard for air exchanges.
Principal Gillespie explains that there would be no physical distancing measures for in-person classes, as the university is exempt from physical distancing requirements since it is an essential service.
For this reason, UTM will continue to prioritize high-quality ventilation on campus. However, the university will not provide N95 facial coverings or rapid tests. Principal Gillespie stresses that UTM students should act responsibly by wearing well-fitting masks on campus.
Principal Gillespie states, “In-person higher education is a key source of social connectedness, not just while you’re here at university, so that’s really, really important, but for the rest of your lives. This is where you form networks and learn to network beyond your own family and immediate community.”
During the meeting, Principal Gillespie also stresses that in-person learning is a significant way to boost our society’s health as considered by public health officials.
In terms of hybrid learning for the Winter semester, the meeting reveals that the courses currently listed as “in-person” will continue to be in-person throughout the term. Meanwhile, other classes will fully resume on campus starting February 7.
The university indicates there are no plans for hybrid learning or increased online options for students. In the meeting, it is also mentioned that professors are now able to record their lectures, though they are not required to do so.
Several students demonstrated concerns about the university’s current food service provider being Aramark. According to various sources, the provider has a history of controversy due to scandals such as serving expired foods for consumption.
No clear answer was given rather they stated, “UTM food services contract was awarded via a mandatory, transparent, public RFP process.” Currently, UTM currently has no intention to remove Aramark Food Services from the list of campus food providers.
For students who require academic accommodation due to a disability, the school encourages them to reach out to Accessibility Services that can be found on the U of T website.
Though several issues during the meeting were not fully resolved, many students at UTM were thrilled to hear some of the new changes such as permitted lecture recordings. With discussion of various ongoing topics, the meeting restored the hopes of many students since many issues were finally addressed.