The provincial ombudsman was asked to review Carleton University’s decision not to offer more in-person classes in the New Year by a parent who said the school provided little information on the situation .
The complaint from Carleton’s parent and Ottawa lawyer Paula Clarke comes as frustration escalates with lifelong online learning, which some schools have relied on while others have mostly returned to in-person classes given high COVID-19 vaccination rates on campus, mandatory indoor masking and the go-ahead from the provincial government.
“It’s a public institution and these students, along with their parents and alumni owe answers,” Clarke said. “None of this is planned.”
Clarke’s son, a first year biology student, doesn’t have any face-to-face classes and it’s unclear what his winter term will look like. The university said it would increase on-campus classes to 50%, from the current 30%, but also said students may have to wait until early January – just before the start of the term – before knowing the schedules.
Carleton spokesperson Steven Reid said “Decisions to return to school campus are made with the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff as our top priority… while The pandemic continues to unfold, with the increase in cases of COVID-19, a new variant and with the province suspending its plan to open, Carleton, like other facilities in the Ottawa area, continues to adopt a safe and gradual approach for his return to campus.
Reid said that “our plan to return to campus is aligned with public health recommendations to gradually increase capacity limits and relax physical distancing requirements at universities.”
Some students, however, are not happy with the late return to in-person learning, pointing to other universities that have already been successful in bringing students back to campus. They also say Carleton hasn’t done a good job communicating the upcoming changes.
“I think as a student we should be able to do more things in person with classes and programs” and events, and the student association is now pushing for a reduction in tuition fees given the opportunities limited on campus, said Valentina Vera González, vice president of student affairs at the Carleton University Student Association.
The Carleton University Academic Staff Association said that “students have reported a dramatic increase in the number of courses moving from a scheduled in-person delivery to an online delivery instead,” but the university said. contrary.
The association said it was “very concerned about any plans to increase in-person course sections without proper consultation with all necessary bodies,” including the faculty association and the university senate.
“If there had been proper consultation, transparency would be more naturally experienced. This would avoid confusion and disappointment. It would also make the experience less shocking when decisions about how to protect everyone on campus have to be made, ”the association said in a post on its website.
While unable to comment on specific complaints, the ombudsman’s office said those about post-secondary institutions often focus on admissions, academic appeals, funding and student services.
“In 2020-2021, most post-secondary institutions across the province were moved online due to COVID-19, and our staff have helped hundreds of people overcome the impacts of this change,” said the office of the ombudsman in its annual report.
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