Students and officials worry about spread of COVID-19 during in-person exams at UBC – Chilliwack Progress


Fears that hundreds of students will be huddled together in exam rooms as people with symptoms of COVID-19 could show up to write the finals have led to a call to cancel exams in no one at the University of British Columbia.

The university’s Alma Mater company issued a public letter to the administration saying that students have come forward to express concerns about the lack of distancing in the examination rooms that accommodate hundreds of students, as well as symptomatic students attending these exams.

Eshana Bhangu, the company’s vice president of academic and university affairs, said an “overwhelming” number of students have reached out to share their concerns.

She said the company had heard of little social distancing, people testing positive and attending exams as well as students being forced to sit on the floor and write their exams due to a lack of space.

“I’m looking for the university to show leadership,” Bhangu said in an interview.

She added that the university was able to move quickly to online learning when the pandemic began.

“I understand that there are logistical challenges, but they have already shown they can do it,” Bhangu said. “It’s a matter of being voluntary.”

Kurt Heinrich, senior director of media relations at the university, said in a statement that the administration has told deans they can work with their staff and faculty to run exams online when appropriate.

But he added that it would be up to faculty and academic staff to determine whether an exam could be taken online.

“Each university’s situation is different and at UBC we continue to receive assurance from public health and the provincial government that we are not currently seeing a spike in cases posing a risk to the health of our students, from our teachers and staff, ”he said.

“We have been told that we have important controls and measures in place to keep our community safe.”

Second-year student Ava Peacock said she took several exams during this time with around 900 other students, which left her worried about her health.

The lack of clarity on how many students are vaccinated against the virus and whether people are attending after contracting COVID-19 is concerning, she added.

“We fear for our safety,” Peacock said.

British Columbia’s provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry announced Monday that new restrictions would come into effect over fears the Omicron variant could overwhelm hospitals.

They include a 50% capacity limit at venues with more than 1,000 people, a ban on youth and adult sports tournaments during the winter holiday period, and the cancellation of all New Year’s celebrations.

Gurveen Kaur, a third-year student, said she was concerned about the lack of nearby COVID-19 testing sites during the review period.

Kaur lives and works on campus and said the nearest test site is a 40-minute ride away by public transit.

“As universities around the world connect, (UBC’s) insistence on exams and in-person teaching leads me to believe that UBC doesn’t care about its students and of its employees, ”she said.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press



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