As you will have seen in the announcement last week from the President and Provost of the University, they intend on forcing as much on-campus activity as possible.
Their stated reasons for this, at every public facing meeting, is that this is necessary for the mental health of students, staff and faculty. They have never provided any evidence for this, and all of the available evidence points to this being untrue.
Certainly, in the survey of the class, 90% of you indicated that you did not want to return to classrooms. I don’t blame you. It is wildly unsafe. It cannot be good for “mental health” to put people into a terrifying situation.
And it is terrifying. Here is today’s chart outlining the deaths in Ontario alone due to COVID-19:
[Text description: This graph shows the deaths in Ontario over time, with a new peak forming on the right at the y-axis. Text in the graph reads “Ontario New Deaths 57 – up 17 versus last week. Loess Smoothed Trend 60.3/day – up 19.2 versus last week. The current smoothed trend is 104% of previous peak on January 21, 2021. Source 2022-01-21 Bill Comeau @Billius27 (via Twitter).]
As you can see from this graph, there are currently more people dying of COVID than has ever been the case since the pandemic began. This data is from Sunday (yesterday)! Yet the University (and the Province) are determined to open up activities.
It is important to know that internally, the reasons given for this need to go back to face-to-face instruction are all financial. Essentially, the President and Provost believe that by forcing people onto campus, that more money will be spent on parking, in cafeterias, and so on. You are being endangered over the contents of your wallet. It’s that simple.
You should also know that university administrations across Ontario (presumably ours included) formed a secret lobby group through the Council of Ontario Universities to convince the Ford administration to remove all protections from University campuses regarding gathering limits. We therefore have significantly LESS protection on campus than we would have if you went to a restaurant or bar.
(I will note that they know this, as well — all administrative activities are fully remote. Neither the President or Provost will put themselves in any danger. Even the University Senate, to which they belong, is not allowed to meet in person though it is significantly smaller than many of the classes that will be held next week.)
All this notwithstanding, we are being forced back onto campus. Here is our plan for class.
As before — you can participate remotely in this class. Please do so if you can. Ethically, I refuse to force you into this dangerous situation, and I definitely refuse to take away your own ability to care for and manage your own health, and that of your loved ones. Personally, I find the university’s actions unconscionable.
I will have to be in the classroom on at least some days. Communications during the class will be impaired, and we may have to leave class early (see below) so I am preserving our most important meetings — Fridays — as fully online meetings so that we are able to have unhindered conversation on those days.
On Mondays and on Wednesdays, I will be in our classroom, beginning Jan 31 (unless a more sensible plan is put forward by our administration). I have purchased a CO2 monitor, in order to attempt to gauge air changes in the room. The University does not post any information about air changes achieved during the day, so this is our best method of gauging this. Outdoor air is around 450 ppm CO2. Indoor air should remain below 800 ppm for safety — if it goes above this, we will have to end class. I have not had a chance to measure the room yet, so I do not know how common this might be.
Personally, each person will be required to wear a mask. Get a good one — N95/KN95 if at all possible, and make sure that it fits. You should not feel air coming out around the sides as you breathe, and the mask should noticeably move in and out with your breath. The University is content with you wearing medical masks, but now disallows cloth. Medical masks are somewhat better than cloth masks, stopping on the order of twice the number of particles, but N95 will, by definition, stop 95% of the dangerous particles — these are a large factor better than medical masks, which are really designed to prevent inhalation of blood spatter and droplets.
I wish I had better news. You are being put into a ridiculous situation.
If you are angry about this situation, there is no reason why you should not let the University know. You are free to directly send email to the President and Provost — they claim that they listen to student emails. Their email addresses are: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
It is quite likely that we will have a major interruption of the term — some Universities are organizing student walkouts. You can contact your Central Student Association https://csaonline.ca/ to find out if that is happening here.
Another event that may interrupt the term is if I get sick because of this terrible plan. If that happens, the course will be suspended. I don’t have any idea for how long, or what the completion plan will be — because the University refuses to plan for this eventuality at all. I have had three vaccines, the most recent on December 24, so my risk of hospitalization is low, and my risk of death even lower, but no one knows what my risk of incapacitation may be.
Finally, I don’t want anyone to get this. People who get COVID are getting “long COVID”. This seems to affect between 1/10 and 1/5 of patients no matter how insignificant the symptoms of the disease may be at the time of their infection. Long COVID syndrome affects the brain, nervous system, immune system and major organ systems. I really don’t want anyone to have permanent brain damage (aka “brain fog”) as a souvenir of their time as a student.
Stay as safe as you can, everyone.
PS: For people who are forced onto campus on Fridays who are looking for a place to sit and participate remotely — our room is booked and available for you at that time. You are certainly free to sit there. Open the back door for fresh air if you want to improve the air quality.