UMSU Supportive of U of M’s Decision to Hold Winter 2021 Classes Online
September 28, 2020, Winnipeg, MB – Last night, the President of the University of Manitoba, Dr. Michael Benarroch, announced that the university would continue to hold the majority of its classes remotely through the Winter 2021 term, utilizing the processes and resources established during Fall 2020. Eclipsing the earlier infection rates which provoked the initial shift to online learning across the post-secondary landscape, the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, coupled with increased part-time enrolment, play a large role in this announcement.
Said UMSU President, Jelynn Dela Cruz: “As we prepare for another semester online, we remain firm in our efforts to assist students who are displaced by COVID-19. From accessible course materials to adequate mental health supports, this pandemic is only highlighting the areas within post-secondary which require the most progress. As stewards for a better socio-economic future in Manitoba, this is the time where our actions will matter the most.”
While UMSU shares the disappointment in lieu of the excitement which the beginning of a new traditional academic term typically brings, UMSU supports the University’s decision to put the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff at the forefront, while continuing every effort to remain operational.
An UMSU survey of its 24,000 undergraduate student members in late September 2020 discovered the following:
– 57% of respondents said that their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic
– 54% of respondents said they had received no communication from the U of M regarding its plan to allow professors to use Webcam monitoring software during exams
– >25% of respondents said they were unaware that the University had opened up in-person study spaces to students in need
Added UMSU Vice-President Advocacy, Kristin Smith: “My hope is that the U of M will seize this opportunity to make online learning a more enriching experience. The good news is that we are no longer reacting to unprecedented issues; with seven months behind us, my expectation from administrators moving forward is nothing short of excellence. UMSU remains committed to fostering collaboration and accountability.”
To help offset the impact that the pandemic is having for U of M students, especially in light of campus closures, UMSU has deferred mandatory fees for its universal transit pass (U-Pass) while providing a need-based subsidy for the alternative rate, increased its financial hardship fund to offer more support for students facing extenuating circumstances, worked with the international student community to provide emergency aid, and successfully lobbied the U of M to create a tech fund for those without personal computers.
UMSU has also been active lobbying government at both the provincial and federal levels to provide greater supports for post-secondary students during the ongoing pandemic.
In June, the UMSU President and Vice-President Advocacy met with the Province of Manitoba’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Economic Development and Training to discuss UMSU recommendations to making childcare for students more affordable, to expand the ACCESS programs to elevate post-secondary opportunities for low-income students and those from northern and rural areas, and to embrace online learning as an integral part of the Province’s post-secondary future.
UMSU is also currently playing a leading role lobbying Ottawa for greater pandemic-related supports for post-secondary students as part of the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU), a student advocacy coalition comprised of student representatives from some of Canada’s largest research institutions.
For media inquiries:
Jelynn Dela Cruz
UMSU VP Advocacy