My school just approved a 4% tuition hike while also greenlighting hundreds of in-person lecture classes for the fall. This is primarily to make up for lost revenue, and it's going to create a dangerous environment for disabled students & faculty.
They are assuming that the entire province will be vaccinated by then, without considering how uneven and chaotic the vaccination process has been. The tuition increase will also be a hardship to students who've barely been financially surviving.
I don't believe that most institutions are acting in the best interests of students, staff, and faculty. They are trying to recoup losses while dealing with lack of provincial funding. Even the small funding bump we got was a "one-time" deal, like a "gift." It's not enough.
The safest move would be to keep exploring online pedagogy, investing in new technologies and models for delivery, fully staffing teaching and learning centres, finding ways to meet students where they are--the push back to in-person learning is a kind of backlash.
Most of these decisions are being made by academic administrators who have no real training in alternative pedagogies, and very little understanding of how to serve a broad population of students. They are trying to "keep the lights on," but we need better solutions.
U of A is also gutting their faculty while literally trying to claw back money paid to their salaries. Schools around the country are falling into dangerous disrepair under conservative governments. Pushing for "back to school" isn't an all-purpose solution for everyone.
Faculty are told something different every few weeks. First we're pivoting to digital, then we're pivoting to blended learning, then we're in-person full steam ahead, getting back to "real teaching," and it's an insult to faculty, staff and students alike.
I'm not saying that all admin are dealing poorly with an unprecedented crisis. Many are trying to do ethical work under impossible conditions. But universities are corporations, and they will always cut costs over providing safe, equitable, accessible learning. Always.
It's particularly distressing to hear instructors describe online/blended learning as "not real," simply because it doesn't replicate a physical classroom--a classroom that was probably inaccessible and fraught to begin with. Yes, online has problems too, but also benefits.
When students hear this, they also might see in-person teaching as the only way to learn--which can exclude all kinds of disabled and neurodivergent students, as well as those who need more flexible class times and participation models. We need a diversity of thoughtful models.
This is a moment where we could really draw upon the knowledge of colleagues who've been doing online/blended teaching for years, staff our CTLs, and develop new teaching forms--instead we're racing to return to a century-old model that's only ever benefited certain students.
Whenever we face crises, and academia sort of blinks and has the chance to transform--it *always* makes the conservative choice to honour its capitalist and colonial foundations. If we leap back into the traditional classroom, we're just doing this all over again.
The logic of a return to lecture-style classes doesn't hold up. How will international students guarantee they've been vaccinated before registering? Barring non-vaccinated students is racism covered over as health concerns (an old move). We can't guarantee safe classrooms.
Students are facing the worst of this financial crisis. Sessional instructors are essentially being asked to teach in unsafe conditions, or forfeit work. University staff have to make impossible choices about on-campus working conditions. We need more nuanced and ethical plans.
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