Written by: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer
SFU released its four-stage reopening plan on May 26, 2021. In stage four, the plan proposes a 80–100% density return to campus for in-person learning. In response, Serena Bains, vice-president university and academic affairs of the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), introduced the Access for All campaign to SFU.
The campaign brings forth concerns regarding campus reopening and how it would impact disabled, neurodiverse, immunocompromised people, BIPOC members, international students, and other marginalized groups. It makes calls to action for SFU, including:
- Facilitating hybrid courses for all SFU classes during the Fall 2021 semester
- Releasing a specific COVID-19 SFU reopening plan that would decrease infectious outbreaks, such as:
- Social distancing measures in lecture halls
- COVID-19 testing on campus
- Making vaccines a priority for students
- Making masks mandatory (with exceptions for disabled and/or neurodiverse people)
The campaign also lists the barriers that students may face with a campus return.
Some examples include concerns about low-income countries’ lack of vaccine access for international students, who would face potential exposure to COVID-19 due to travel. Another concern is that transitioning solely to in-person delivery for courses will make courses less accessible, as online learning has closed captioning and asynchronous delivery.
Access for All was originally created by the Society for Students with a Disability at the University of Victoria to address the BC COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Primer released on April 30, 2021.
Bains found information about the Access for All campaign on social media, and contacted the organizers about implementing it at SFU.
“We had a lot of concerns,” Bains said regarding the Go-Forward guidelines released by the province on June 1. While SFU states they will clean lecture halls daily, Bains noted there were no guidelines on cleaning between lectures — despite lecture halls returning to full capacity. Coupled with the province’s plan to make masks optional in September, the campaign highlights that students and faculty members will be at higher risk of infection.
Bains also worried members of the SFU community weren’t properly represented in the panel of experts for the Go-Forward guidelines.
While SFU recommended that marginalized students have access to accommodations, Bains said they are not mandated by the university. “In my opinion, if SFU isn’t mandated or provided the resources, then they won’t commit to these things on their own accord.
“I think we need to recognize that before the pandemic, a lot of students were left behind in their education,” Bains said.
“SFU should commit to consulting with students, staff, and faculty for their return to campus plans.” They said SFU should rethink making plans according to the province’s.
“I don’t think one’s morality should rely on legislation, especially if you have the resources to provide a safe environment to the community members you’re supposed to serve.”