The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union announced on August 27 that in-person Frosh week, COSMOS’20, which had been scheduled to take place from September 6 to September 11, was cancelled. This announcement was regarded as a disappointment by first-year students planning on attending the program.
The cancellation statement released by the UTMSU stated that “The University of Toronto has prohibited the UTMSU from using campus facilities to hold in-person orientation programming.”
Having Frosh week online has been difficult for incoming students to interact with their peers as the online platform has put a pause on the social aspect of the events since students are limited in their interaction with others.
However, the UTMSU has expressed that they will “continue to explore ways to engage students in the coming weeks.” Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students who planned on attending the hybrid program will not have other continued online Frosh events after September 5, and “reimbursements will be administered to those who purchased hybrid tickets” with an email being sent out later explaining the process.
The Medium talked to the president of the UTMSU, Mitra Yakubi, about the outcomes and the challenges of cancelling in-person orientation.
“Considering that no concerns about our programming were raised by the university throughout our discussions since March, we were extremely disheartened when told we were prohibited from using the university’s facilities,” stated Yakubi. “Regardless, we planned for a hybrid orientation with both online and in-person programming and made necessary precautions to ensure our programming and the UTMSU space was safe and accessible for everyone.”
There are benefits to introducing events through different platforms and taking a new approach without risking people’s health. Having an online platform has been challenging yet eye-opening. Interactions through social media will play a more significant role in this year’s communication systems and students’ social interactions.
“We are investigating opportunities for in-person programming for the second semester; however, nothing is set in stone yet,” Yakubi continued. “Since March, the UTMSU worked diligently to adapt its programming to COVID-19 safety protocols. We worked closely with various U of T departments and representatives to assess and discuss our planned events, precautions, and procedures to ensure safety amongst participants.”
Moreover, the university administration hadn’t raised any concerns regarding the union’s planning of Frosh events during their discussions following the campus’ closure in March.
“The UTMSU’s Health and Safety Committee [had] assessed the risks associated with in-person programming and created a plan to ensure proper physical distancing, smaller orientation groups, as well as enhanced sanitization and safety protocols,” said Yakubi.
Regardless of Frosh’s in-person events being cancelled, students are finding new ways to engage with the university experience through social media and other online platforms. The UTMSU has acknowledged students’ concerns and “will continue to offer a variety of cost-saving services, events, and campaigns in accordance with health and safety protocols.”