Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

THE PHYSICALLY DISTANCED APPROACH – Meagan Christie, right, instructs the carpentry class on Tuesday.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SPARTAN PREMISES – Yukon University spokesperson Michael Vernon is seen in the Yukon University Commons room Tuesday.Most of the furniture has been removed.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Sparsh Arora, Marji Cowell and Jo-lene Mullett, left-right.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

It’s a quiet new world at Yukon University

The first day of classes at Yukon University Tuesday saw the launch of the school’s COVID-19 regulations –– and a nearly-empty Whitehorse campus.

By Whitehorse Star on September 2, 2020

The first day of classes at Yukon University Tuesday saw the launch of the school’s COVID-19 regulations –– and a nearly-empty Whitehorse campus.

“The biggest thing that’s missing, I guess, for us, is the energy,” Michael Vernon, a spokesperson for the university, told the Star during a tour of the campus on Tuesday morning.

“The beginning of term is usually this big rush of energy as all the students come back, and that’s not here.” 

Most classes are taking place via Zoom video conferencing this year, with the exception of a handful of programs. 

While most students won’t need to regularly visit campus, the bookstore, library and Connect student support hub are all open.

Students are instructed to take advantage of those resources without lingering longer than necessary.

Sparsh Arora, a sophomore manning the school’s check-in booth on Tuesday, told the Star he has mixed emotions about the unusual year ahead.

“I’m in the middle of happy and sad,” Arora said.

“To be honest, we have to accept the reality, so I feel like if I’m safe, I’m happy.”

Arora is a second-year business administration student, and all of his lectures are taking place online. He said his instructors have allotted some time for socialization after Zoom lectures, so students can connect. 

“The instructors are really open and they’re having enough time with us that we can feel friendly with them, and with classmates as well,” Arora said.

On the first day of school, Arora directs students to sign in, use hand sanitizer and mind the directional markers on the floor when travelling among the library, Connect support hub and bookstore.

The check-in booth is one of many features implemented to ensure student safety this year.

The Whitehorse campus is currently closed to the general public, so students check in with their student identification card.

This will enable contact tracing, if necessary.

Every class is taking place virtually with the exception of science, nursing labs, trades shops and visual arts classes in Dawson City.

Those in-person lectures have been reduced to six to eight students, compared to approximately 20 in a regular school year.

Jo-lene Mullett is also a business administration student who told the Star she’s apprehensive about the virtual courses.

“Well, I’d rather be in class,” Mullett said Tuesday.

“I feel like I get more information when I’m in class rather than doing it on my own online; in a class you have other helps, you interact with other students.”

Last year, Mullett said, she did a lot of studying in the university’s common areas.

“I have a four-year-old at home, so it’s quite noisy,” Mullett said.

“It’ll probably be OK; it’s going to be difficult at first, but as time goes on, I’m sure I’ll get used to it.”

Vernon said many students requested quiet study spaces as a must-have service.

The library provides spaced-out desks and private rooms for students to study and listen to Zoom lectures. 

Library books can be ordered, but students can’t browse the stacks, and books are subject to quarantine when they’re returned. Laptop computers are available for seven-day rentals.

“Critically, we wanted to make sure students still had access to technology and still had access to study spaces,” Vernon told the Star.

Food service is not provided on campus this year, due partially to the reduced number of people on campus. The cafeteria has been converted into a support hub where students can access program advisors, academic, personal and wellness support.

“We have our Connect team, which is a combination of people who can triage whatever those requests are that are coming in,” said Marjie Cowell, a Connect administrative assistant.

“Whether they’re financial, class-related, all of those things we can help with.”

Students at campuses outside Whitehorse can access Connect supports via phone, text and video call. In-person support and study spaces are available at community campuses by appointment.

Yukon University projected a 15 per cent decrease in enrolments over the 2020-21 school year, with just over 1,000 students enrolled.

There are approximately 100 international students at the university, most of whom are not in their first year. A handful of those students transferred to the Yukon from elsewhere in Canada.

The university is striving to balance pandemic safety with the supports students need to be successful. 

“We know the shift to online learning due to COVID-19 comes with the loss of social contact and sense of community on campus,” Dr. Janet Welch, vice-president Academic and Student Services, said in a press release.

“We expect students to be in greater need of in-person support than ever before, so this is where our focus will be.”

Comments (1)

Up 27 Down 2

Jack on Sep 3, 2020 at 12:58 am

Definitely it's a quiet new world of salary and pension largesse with zero-oversight at Yukon University.....

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