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Montreal Students Demand Online Classes As People Return From Break & COVID-19 Fears Mount

Online petitions have begun for Concordia and McGill.
COVID-19 Outbreak In Quebec Leads Students To Demand Online Classes
  • Montreal students are petitioning their universities to institute online classes as the number of cases of COVID-19 in Quebec grows.
  • Several universities in the U.S. have cancelled in-person meetings in favour of online courses.

Students in Montreal are petitioning their schools to suspend in-person instruction and move to online learning as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec continues to climb. Both McGill and Concordia students are hoping that petitions, as well as calls and emails, will convince university officials to act on a plan to cancel on-campus classes. Students are calling on their university to take note from other post-secondary institutions that have made the move to online courses while the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread internationally.

In Montreal, two schools have suspended classes in relation to COVID-19. 

The first was Collège International Marie de France, a private French school which is a member of the worldwide network of the Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE). The school offers elementary to college-level instruction and classes at the secondary school level were suspended as one student awaits the results of a COVID-19 test. 

The school notes that if the test comes back negative, classes will resume immediately. If positive, secondary classes will remain suspended for 14 days.

The second school to suspend classes was Academie Louis-Pasteur, another private French elementary school to have a student presenting symptoms. 

Students at the university level in Quebec are now expressing their concern after many universities across the United States have made the move to online classes. 

The petition directed at the Concordia University Administration notes that "many Concordia students have travelled and returned from the tri-state area for the Spring Break," which occurred between March 2-6. In New York, there are currently over 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

We reached out to Concordia to inquire about plans to cancel classes, exams or other events. A spokesperson let us know that "Concordia activated the communicable disease response plan in February which includes actively monitoring and following the recommendation of public health authorities at the federal, provincial and local levels."

"It also includes preparing alternative scenarios in case we need to modify the delivery of courses and exams as well as travel and events on campus. We have shared FAQs which are regularly updated to address the questions and concerns of our community and we have put additional hand sanitizers at elevators and entrances of campus buildings."

In short, there is no current plan to suspend group learning, group testing or other large gatherings at this time.

Students at McGill have also started a petition, where they note that "McGill and the University of Toronto are the last two institutions within the 56-member-strong American Association of Universities that are still operating. All other universities have cancelled classes or had announced plans to do so."

On the McGill subreddit, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) president Bryan Buraga posted a COVID-19 update asking students to "[trust] our public health officials in recommending what is best for our campus community based on the evidence that they have available to them."

In his Reddit post, Buraga also explains that "the University was preparing contingency plans in the case that the situation takes a turn for the worse," which led many students to respond with questions about reactive vs. proactive measures.

One commenter, McgillU3throwaway, questioned this statement, saying, "So the McGill admin is telling me that one of my parents is in isolation after a trip to Switzerland, my brothers school in the middle of nowhere was closed because of contact with one of the US cases but me on an international campus of over 40,000 where hundreds have just come back from spring break has no links and no need to change anything?"

We spoke with Ready McGill, a student-led group calling on the university administration to cancel all in-person instruction. Their spokesperson shared the sentiment of the Reddit commenters saying, "the McGill administration, unfortunately, is as bureaucratic as it has always been. We have not received any direct response despite our rapidly-growing signatures."

"The university, however, did send out a school-wide e-mail, saying 'they're looking into the matter,' but all in all, they're not doing anything proactively to protect their students and faculty." 

MTL Blog reached out to McGill University about the situation but has not yet received a response. We will update this article when we do. 

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