COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) has, in the last few months, caused sickness, death and major disruptions across the world. This virus’ outbreak, recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has forced major institutions and businesses to close to the public or modify their daily operations.
After cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg (U of W) announced that they were cancelling all in-person classes, labs and exams for the rest of the winter term. The University of Manitoba, Université de Saint-Boniface and Brandon University had similar responses.
The Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre has closed, but, as of press time, Diversity Foods, student support services and research support services on campus remain open. Residences will remain open and will be subject to extra cleaning, according to the university.
In a statement released on March 13, the U of W said that “deans and department chairs are working collaboratively with faculty on alternate methods of course content delivery and are actively planning how we can support students in completing their courses.”
On March 16, the university released another statement to announce that no in-person classes or exams will take place this term.
“Exams may be conducted online, via Nexus or other means,” it reads. “Students will learn by March 20 how final grades will be determined.” The last day of classes was scheduled for April 3.
Reza Saker, vice-president of the U of W International Students’ Union, applauds the steps taken by the university to respond to this crisis.
“I really appreciate the fact that the university authority took the matter very seriously and prioritized students’ health and safety,” he says in an email to The Uniter.
“I think the university’s communication with the students in this regard is very informative and clear,” Saker says, adding that he encourages all students “to not panic but stay alert and keep (themselves) updated with the most recent information.”
One of Saker’s concerns is the financial impact of this crisis.
“Most of the students work part-time, and now they’re not getting enough work hours to pay their bills,” he says.
The U of W Students’ Association (UWSA) released a statement outlining their response to this crisis, saying the “UWSA executive and staff will be working remotely” and “all non-essential UWSA services, service centres, offices and events will be closed until further notice.” This includes Info Booth, Bike Lab and Safewalk.
According to a statement by U of W president and vice-chancellor Dr. Annette Trimbee, “these adjustments will cause disruption.”
“We are grateful for your continuing efforts, patience and understanding as we navigate this challenge together,” Trimbee says.
As this is a rapidly changing situation, up-to-date information on the U of W’s response to the COVID-19 crisis can be found at uwinnipeg.ca/covid-19/index.html.
Published in Volume 74, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 19, 2020)