Students, staff and faculty are making their way back to campus this week as the University of Toronto increases its in-person learning and activities with appropriate safety measures in place.
Students navigated the snow-covered St. George campus Monday while professors delivered more lectures face-to-face – although in fewer numbers than would normally be the case at this time of year. That’s because specific plans for the return of in-person learning are being determined by individual campuses, divisions and departments depending on their specific needs.
U of T Scarborough welcomed community members back in person for a limited number of courses, while U of T Mississauga continued to increase the number of in-person courses available to students after navigating a limited return to campus earlier this year.
“We’re excited to welcome more students, staff and faculty back to all three campuses,” said Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s vice-president and provost. “The importance of an in-person learning environment cannot be overstated. It allows our community to not only learn together, but to support one another.
“We are committed to providing a safe and stimulating environment for our community to learn and will continue to follow public health guidance closely.”
(Photo by Johnny Guatto)
U of T’s 12-step plan for a safe return to in-person learning includes a focus on vaccines, mask-wearing in indoor spaces and ventilation in classrooms and buildings, as well as self-screening via the UCheck online tool.
UCheck now includes the option to voluntarily upload proof of vaccine booster doses.
The university continues to encourage all members of its community to get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. New appointments for booster doses are being added daily to the provincial booking system and at local pharmacies. More information on vaccine clinics on all three campuses can be found on UTogether.
Devlin Grewal, a U of T Scarborough student in his final year of the integrative biology program, said he is looking forward to more “organic” interactions with other students when his in-person lectures resume in a few weeks.
“We’ve all seen our circles contract during the pandemic and whether we realize it or not, that kind of limits our experiences and our worldview,” said Grewal, who moved to Toronto four years ago from Fiji to pursue his studies.
At U of T Mississauga, the increase of in-person teaching has some professors excited to see students beyond a computer screen.
Jordana Garbati, assistant professor, teaching stream, at the Institute for the Study of University Pedagogy, said that in-person classes strengthen the sense of community among students.
“The students sort of knew one another before meeting in-person because of our weeks on Zoom, but now they can get to know one another a bit better, make friends, bounce ideas around, chat with their desk neighbour, and practise their verbal communication skills with students, staff, and faculty across campus,” she said.
Beyond the classroom, Garbati, who started teaching at U of T Mississauga in 2020, said she is excited to “work among colleagues, make regular trips to the library and bookstore, enjoy a change of scenery and set up a positive workspace.”
While Grewal still harbours some anxiety around events like exams, he said he’s a social learner and enjoys speaking to a professor after class or sticking around to discuss something with his classmates.
“We grow up getting told that university is going to be some of the best days of your life,” he said.
“It’s easy to feel like that’s not true after spending two years doing online university. So, I think it will be great for everyone to have that little bit of fulfillment and to be able to form those memories that you’ll carry with you.”