Classes to return in person on February 7 as AMS calls for expanded ‘multi-access instruction’

A majority of classes will be in person again starting February 7.

President Santa Ono and Principal of UBC Okanagan Lesley Cormack said classes would be in person until the end of term two in a broadcast email sent to community members on January 26.

Classes were originally scheduled to return to in-person delivery on January 24, but the return date was extended to February 7 due to the ongoing COVID-19 wave caused by the Omicron variant.

Like previous broadcast emails related to the delivery of courses, Ono and Cormack said that the decision to return to in-person instruction was made in consultation with deans, academic heads and student leadership.

“We recognize that some members of our community may be apprehensive about returning to campus, and the university has put in place multiple layers of protection to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in response to information on the progression of the pandemic,” they wrote.

These measures include requiring community members to comply with the COVID-19 Campus Rules, to assess themselves daily for COVID-19 symptoms and to wear masks when indoors.

Rapid testing kits will also be available to students, staff and faculty who are symptomatic for COVID-19 starting February 7, something the AMS called for in a letter sent to UBC admin earlier today. Community members will need to show a piece of valid UBC ID card to access these kits.

In an interview Wednesday night, AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Eshana Bhangu said the student society would push for increased access to rapid testing, beyond just symptomatic testing.

“We're pushing them to ensure that they're accessible to all students, and not just those who are showing symptoms based on the province’s definition which keeps on reducing the eligibility,” Bhangu said.

For staff members, Ono and Cormack said academic and administrative units have established remote work agreements where academic and operational requirements permit.

Although a majority of classes will be in-person, Ono and Cormack said that individual faculties and instructors will communicate with students if there are any exceptions.

“Thank you once again to all those who have remained on campus, supporting the important protocols and measures which are helping safeguard our UBC community. Let’s continue to support each other as we return to increased activity once more.”

AMS calls for expansion of ‘multi-access instruction’

In a letter sent earlier today to the President and the Provost, the AMS called for an expansion of hybrid learning, or “multi-access instruction” — something not touched on in Ono and Cormack’s broadcast email.

“Multi-access instruction” in the context of the AMS’s letter refers to “instruction that is delivered face-to-face with an option to attend remotely (whether it be via live streaming synchronously, availability of recorded lectures afterwards, or other means).”

Lecture recording has been used at UBC in several faculties, but it has not been implemented broadly. Faculty and administration have raised concerns in the past over intellectual property considerations, privacy, student engagement and pedagogical preferences.

“We keep on hearing that there's feasibility concerns. But the fact is faculties like medicine and pharmacy have been doing it for years,” Bhangu told The Ubyssey in a phone interview Wednesday night.

When asked by the university on how courses should be delivered post-February 7, Bhangu said she told the university that the AMS wanted students to have options.

“I would like to see flexibility. I would like to see options for students who are unable to make it back, for students who have severe health concerns and may really be uncomfortable being in person,” she said.

The AMS’s letter comes after the Alliance of BC Students sent a letter to the Public Health Office recommending expanded remote learning options amid the recent COVID-19 wave. The GSS signed on to the Alliance’s letter, but the AMS was notably absent.