How the Mount Allison community is responding to the global health crisis
On Friday, March 13, an email was sent out informing the Mount Allison community that the semester is suspended due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The email came from Robert Inglis, the vice-president of finance and administration, who wrote, “Although there is no provincial directive requiring this to happen at this time, the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff is our primary concern. This is consistent with decisions made at other universities across the province and nationally.”
The email stated that in-person classes would be suspended for the rest of the semester, but that students would still “have a pathway to complete each course and gain full academic credit for it.” It explained that students can expect information from their professors regarding the completion of course content by March 20.
“Students will not be recalled to campus for a final examination period,” said Inglis. Jennings and student residences will remain open, and university operations will continue.
Faculty members will be permitted to make changes to course outlines without consulting the class in order to facilitate the many changes that will be necessary, according to a March 19 email from the new “COVID-19 Info” email address set up by the school. This email also announced that the withdrawal period without penalty has been extended to March 31, to accommodate students who may feel that “completing a given course is simply impractical.”
Students’ academic plans have already been disrupted by the pandemic. Isabelle Dolan is a third-year physics student who is concerned about the completion of her honours, which involved international travel. “This summer, I was supposed to spend several weeks in Germany doing physics research at a particle accelerator.… At the moment, things seem quite uncertain because of the development of the pandemic,” she said. “A lot of the experience you gain is from actually being there and being able to collaborate with physicists from all over the world. I also loved Mainz, the city where the research collaboration is based, and it is sad to think that I might not be able to go back. I think a lot of students are very stressed out and even scared: plans that were once set in stone are now up in the air and the future seems quite uncertain.”
Dr. Christiana MacDougall is a sociology professor who worked in health care and focuses her research on sociology of health. She stressed the importance of social distancing at this time: “Social distancing is important because every contact you avoid is one less opportunity to spread this illness, and we never know who’s compromised, who’s at risk. It’s all of our responsibility to keep vulnerable people safe. Even if you’re not compromised and you’re not sick, being out automatically increases the risk for vulnerable folks.”
When asked what advice she has for students, MacDougall said, “Try to stay up to date with good information but try not to obsess or over-focus on it. Decide on how you’re going to live your life home with minimal contact and just commit to doing it. Go for walks outside away from people, call your families and people who are important to you, and take care of each other. Think about which of your friends might be the most worried, vulnerable and at risk, and do your best to support them as well.”
Mt. A President Jean-Paul Boudreau sent out an email on Saturday, March 14 to the community addressing the pandemic. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of faculty, students and staff as we work together to navigate these unusual circumstances,” he wrote. “These events have been challenging for the entire Mount Allison community, as well as the global community. Continue to take care of yourselves, look out for one another, and practice the compassion for which our campus is so well known. We will get through this together.”
MASU President Yana Titarenko also reached out to students via email. She reassured students, saying, “I know many of you are stressed, upset, anxious, worried or all of the above but rest assured that we will get through this. I know this semester has not been easy for us. First, the faculty strike and now the pandemic but know that you are not going through this very stressful time alone and you have the entire Mt. A community here to support you.”