‘Completely unacceptable’: U of C students grapple with sudden switch in course delivery

University of Calgary students are calling on administration to honour the course delivery type they signed up for. 

Earlier this month, the U of C allowed faculty members to change the manner in which their courses will be delivered in the upcoming fall term after facing pressure from faculty, who felt the university wasn’t doing enough to safeguard them from COVID-19 on campus.

Now the impacts of that decision are being felt by students.

“I feel like it’s completely unacceptable,” said first year student Abi Debebe. 

She recently made a big move. She travelled to Calgary from Ethiopia to study computer science at the U of C, incurring costs for plane fare, residence fees and tuition, and quarantining upon arrival in the country. 

“And I do think that would have been a worthwhile investment if we as international students could come here, talk to our peers and interact with our professors,” she said. 

Students learned of changes this week

That’s what she thought she’d signed up for when she registered for in-person classes earlier this summer. But it’s not going to be her reality. 

“The day before yesterday, I found out that most of my classes had switched to an online format. That was 14 days after I got to Calgary and spent a lot of money — just to sit inside my dorm room and learn through a screen all day, which essentially I could have done back home,” she said.

Students’ Union president Nicole Schmidt says at least 150 courses and thousands of students have been impacted by these changes. (UCalgary Students’ Union)

The university says only 10 per cent of courses were shifted online as a result of the decision to allow faculty to change their course delivery. But the Students’ Union (SU) says that change has had an impact on a lot of students. 

“As of right now, we have 150 confirmed courses that have switched format, but the number keeps going up, and that impacts thousands of students,” said SU president Nicole Schmidt.

“It would have been OK to make this decision at an earlier point in time, but, unfortunately, this decision was made without planning ahead and students are paying the price, literally,” she said.

New financial supports

In a statement, the university says 80 per cent of students have schedules that are entirely in-person or have blended modes of delivery.

It says that campus and transit fees will not be charged to those with fully online schedules, but students do have the option to opt-in to these fees to use on-campus facilities.

The university says new bursaries and financial supports have been established for students who have been significantly affected by these changes, and students can determine their eligibility online.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect operations at the University of Calgary — as it does in all walks of our lives,” reads the statement.

“We are committed to continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our community and working with all groups to address concerns that arise. We look forward to the return of students, faculty and staff to campus for the fall semester.”

Debebe says she’d like to see the university do more. 

“At the very least, the school could temporarily compensate students with tuition reduction, or anything along those lines could really help a student like me,” she said. “My family does struggle financially in some ways, and I don’t think I’m the only student in that situation.”

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