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SFU students stage walkout to protest return to in-person learning


After starting the semester with remote learning, Simon Fraser University resumed in-person classes on Monday, leading a group of students still concerned about the dangers posed by the coronavirus to stage a walkout at the school’s Burnaby campus.

About 40 students gathered at Convocation Mall to listen to a number of speakers before marching to the administration building where they chanted, hoping to get the attention of those who made the decision to bring students back to class.

"This return is going to kill people and it doesn’t need to happen," said Emma Hacker, a political science student. "Continued spread of Omicron is going to cause untold harm, not only to vulnerable members of the community but to the entire Lower Mainland."

Hacker pointed out that thousands of SFU students rely on transit to get to campuses throughout Metro Vancouver, and it is not possible to physically distance on crowded buses and skytrain cars.

"I care about SFU and the people in my community," Hacker said. "And it’s really clear to me that SFU, according to their actions, does not."

CTV News requested an on-camera interview with someone from the school’s administration but SFU declined and instead provided an emailed statement from Catherine Dauvergne, the university’s provost.

"There is a unique and irreplaceable value to in-person learning and we have been guided in our decision to return to in-person learning by Public Health and through work with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training," she said in the email.

"We recognize the anxiety and concerns that people are experiencing from the pandemic, it has been a long and difficult few years. We know that there are a wide range of opinions and preferences amongst our community, but it’s particularly important to note that the majority of in-person classroom and learning settings are not considered close-contact environments for the transmission of COVID-19, based on the layers of protection that are in place, i.e., vaccination, masks, and ventilation.”

Some students who attended the walkout did not want to share their names with CTV News over concerns it could impact their standing at the university.

"I just think SFU is very harsh with reactions to students who use their voices," said one student who is pursuing a double-major in Criminology and Gender Studies.

She said classrooms are full, with students sitting side-by-side without additional separation or barriers.

"Why weren’t we consulted? Why weren’t we asked how we wanted the school to be run?" she asked. "So, that is why we are here, so students can have a voice and be able to tell them. And hopefully they will listen."

Dauvergne said SFU is willing to work with students on an individual basis if they do not wish to attend classes in-person.

"If a student feels that they cannot participate in classes as scheduled, they do have options available. Academic concessions are available to all students," she said. "SFU’s Centre for Accessible Learning also supports accommodations for all students with documented disabilities under human rights policy. We have strengthened supports for students feeling anxiety and we encourage all students in need of support to reach out."

More than 4,400 people have signed an online petition calling for the school to continue with online learning, but only a few dozen attended the student walkout. Top Stories

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