By: Alea Mohamed, Staff Writer
Back in March, SFU announced they’re working towards a full return to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, per BC Public Health guidelines. There are still so many unknowns with how this return to campus will work, including the additional cost of international students returning to Canada, vaccine availability, and the everchanging COVID-19 situation. For there to be a safe return to campus, all of these concerns need to be addressed by SFU, with plenty of notice before the fall semester, so that students can be informed in advance.
International students make up a large and important component of the SFU community. At the start of the pandemic, many students moved back to their home countries, while others opted to stay in the Lower Mainland. However, the impact of this pandemic on international students has recently taken on an additional obstacle with which domestic students do not have to deal: a mandatory hotel quarantine.
According to the federal government, all passengers on international flights to Canada must personally pay for a three-day hotel quarantine, and only at hotels pre-approved by the government. Currently, the only broad exemption is for the Temporary Foreign Workers program. The only way that SFU can fully plan for a return to campus is if there is a federal exemption for international students or a plan for international students to quarantine in their homes here in the Lower Mainland. Another possibility could be for SFU to arrange a reimbursement system for students required to pay for the three-day hotel quarantine.
BC’s vaccine plan is also an obstacle for SFU’s return plan. BC is focusing on an age-based vaccination program, where 18–24-year-olds are scheduled last to receive vaccines. While the government promises the first dose by June, the mean age for undergraduate full-time students at SFU is 21.3. This means that when second doses come around, the majority of SFU undergraduate students will still be in the last group to be fully vaccinated.
There are two paths SFU can take with this information. Either SFU can choose to require that students are fully vaccinated before returning to campus, or they can let students return to campus after the single dose — if second doses are not administered to most students by September. Either way, it all depends on BC’s vaccine rollout. If things don’t go according to SFU’s plan, students may be left in the dark regarding the return to campus.
A return to campus has the potential to bring back some much-needed normalcy and routine for students. But, there are still so many ambiguous factors that may change before we can move back to in-person campus life. From the perspective of a student, it is unwise for SFU to make this kind of promise so far in advance. If this last year has taught us anything, it’s that plans can change at the drop of a hat.