Cautiously Optimistic

What campus goers can expect the return to a new normal to look like

Nirosh Saravanan // Contributor
Janelle Momotani // Illustrator

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it has become increasingly clear that students are receiving the short end of the stick. With a lack of resources, a shrinking job market and the other unique challenges facing the student demographic, campuses and student groups need to step up and help ensure that the new normal is more equitable than before.

One thing should be made abundantly clear: most students are not on the priority list to get vaccinated. Many Capilano University (CapU) students also live outside Vancouver Coastal Health’s jurisdiction, limiting their feasibility to return to campus. So, students should not bank on returning to physical classes soon. Instead, schools need to embrace this as a time to change and grow, and students need to speak up, voice their needs and provide feedback to their instructors to foster a better learning environment. Students and their representatives need to pressure the provincial and federal governments to safely and efficiently roll out the vaccinations—even as Canada ranks below its peers in terms of vaccination rates

The grief and strife brought on by the public health crisis has hit students particularly hard. More resources need to be made available for students to help them cope during this dire time.

The new learning environment we’ve been subjected to can lead to the creation and proliferation of non-traditional education, which needs trial and error to develop successfully. It’s a great time to introduce new learning models, such as gamification (applying game design concepts into non-game areas such as a point system or dynamic role-play into the class). Another useful concept is the idea of a reverse classroom that strictly uses the physical classroom only for activities that require in-person participation and reduces the amount of contact required. This makes the classroom a more dynamic experience and could potentially alleviate some mental health hardships. Learning in a social, novel manner while being distant is a challenge, but one we can rise to.

CapU also needs to invest in ways to improve hygiene on campus. One method is improved air circulation. Another is fostering a culture of self-care, allowing students to take the necessary time to heal and recover when they are ill or suspected to be a carrier. By allowing students to isolate and manage their illness, it reduces the chance of transmission. Other new technologies are taking off now, such as UV lights capable of killing pathogens while not causing cancer.

However, these solutions should not come at the cost of environmental responsibilities. Littering has become a huge issue during the pandemic due to disposable PPE, but it is just one example of the pandemic’s impact on the environment. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that our recovery is not to the detriment of the environment. 

Education isn’t the only area where the pandemic has affected students. The pandemic’s economic impact has also hit students hard. Initially, students didn’t qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). While the creation of the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) addressed this, it was evident the priority of those eligible for relief were in the job market and arguably more financially secure. This contrasts against the employment patterns of many students who often work seasonal positions. 

The pandemic has also had a significant impact on the mental health of students, which is already an underrepresented area. The grief and strife brought on by the public health crisis has hit students particularly hard. More resources need to be made available for students to help them cope during this dire time. On and around campus, counselling, helplines and The Foundry; a group of clinics focused on the well-being of folk aged 12 to 24, are all available to students.  

Things will not be the same when students return to CapU—assuming they do. Many have reached the milestone of graduation during their pandemic, marking a shift in their life. Much like life after graduation, life after returning will have new directions and opportunities for the Capilano community at large.

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