UVic student walkout next week calling for hybrid learning model during the pandemic
Several University of Victoria students plan to walk out of class next Wednesday to raise awareness and advocate for equitable access to education for those who are immunocompromised, uncomfortable or unable to return to in-person learning due to potential COVID-19 risks.
Organizers of “UVic Walkout 2022” are protesting the lack of accessible, online course material and want the university to provide hybrid access to classes, tutorials and labs for those who need it.
“For some people, it’s just not feasible for them to attend classes, and it’s really important for those people have access to the classroom materials,” says Adrean Meuser, a co-organizer of the walkout.
Meuser said UVic told organizers the university doesn’t have access to funding to support the hybrid learning model that the students are demanding.
“So we are asking UVic to join the ‘Access4All’ campaign so that we can ask the provincial government for sufficient funding to ensure students have access to hybrid learning options,” Meuser said.
The UVic student had a hard time when it came time to return to in-class learning a few weeks back.
“I personally felt incredibly anxious when I returned to class on Jan. 24,” says Meuser. “I had a series of panic attacks outside of class and had a hard time bringing myself to attend those mandatory classes that were not offered online. So, unfortunately, I felt really uncomfortable and scared and I knew I wasn’t alone.”
Meuser says that students who are unable to attend some in-person classes due to health issues or comfort levels are being penalized and having marks deducted, even though they have completed all their assignments and handed them in; a practice Meuser wants the university to stop.
“Personally, I don’t feel good about going to class and sitting in a 200-person lecture hall with no social distancing, with no ventilation, with no three-layer mask mandate,” says Sky Dragushan, another co-organizer of UVic Walkout 2022.
“The university is not prioritizing our health.”
Dragushan has several health issues, and the lack of remote learning options is stressful for many students.
“It’s really important to me that others who are unable to attend class have options and are able to engage as concretely with course material as are people who are able to be here in-person,” Dragushan says. “It’s absurd that we are still in a pandemic and there aren’t consistent online options for everybody.”
The pair of organizers are working closely with the ‘UVic Society for Students with a Disability,’ which launched the #Access4All Campaign last year to advocate for equitable access to education for all.
Student feedback on the issue is being gathered through a survey conducted on the UVic Walkout 2022 information page, with the results and comments being passed on to the university as part of the campaign.
“We want them to fill out the survey and have their opinions incorporated into this movement and we really want to spread awareness for the Access4All Campaign,” says Meuser. “We’re really looking forward to working directly with university to find some tangible changes so that we can all work together to make a better future for the University of Victoria.”
UVic Walkout 2022 is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 10:30 a.m. All students, faculty and staff are invited to participate and learn more.
Dragushan and Meuser say this is just a first in a series of demonstrations and walkouts planned, which will continue until the university agrees to help provide equitable classroom materials and access for those who need it.