Students at the University of Victoria have joined a growing number of post-secondary students in calling for their institution to shut down due to fears of coronavirus transmission.
After the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Victoria on Wednesday, over a thousand students signed an online petition asking President Jamie Cassels to close the campus in an effort to preemptively stop the spread of the virus at UVic.
“Although there are currently no reported cases within the University of Victoria faculty and students, it is impossible to know the extent of the threat,” reads the petition.
“It has now been confirmed the virus can stay alive up to three days on contaminated plastic and metal. Given the high volume of students who rely on public transportation, attending classrooms, studying in the library, and eating in common areas will inevitably increase rates of exposure.”
Like petitioners across the country, UVic students are asking school authorities to consider switching to online courses in an effort to prioritize both health and education.
“We must act now to keep students, their families, and the community safe. If we wait until there is a case at the University of Victoria, it will be too late.”
The latest statement from UVic confirms their knowledge of Vancouver Island’s first COVID-19 case, but maintains that the institution remains open.
In a letter to students and faculty on Wednesday, President Cassels assured the university community that authorities are “working with our local, provincial and federal partners to address the impacts of COVID-19 based on the best available public health expertise and recommendations.”
Instructors have also been told to waive the requirement of medical documentation of illness for students in cases of absences less than two weeks.
If @uvic is going to remain open indefinitely can we at least get some disinfecting wipes in our classrooms so that instructors can clean off the teaching equipment we use? This feels like a pretty reasonable accommodation / precaution.
— Rob Gillezeau (@robgillezeau) March 12, 2020
After seeing the petition, UVic spokesperson Paul Marck issued the following response:
“Concerning the petition, we understand and appreciate the concern people are showing and we continue to take direction and guidance from public health authorities in how to respond to the outbreak as individuals and as a post-secondary institution.”
“Regarding academic course delivery, an academic response coordination team is working on academic continuity planning, strategies to support alternate course delivery, as well as support for students whose programs are disrupted by the outbreak.”
As of the time of publication, the petition has garnered over 1,300 signatures.
Meanwhile the nationwide petition to shut down schools across Canada now has over 94,000 signatures.