An online petition calling for the University of Guelph to close classes because of the coronavirus has garnered 4,696 supporters.
“Its just people don’t realize it because it’s not out in the open,” says Monsoor Rehman, who helped put together the online petition calling on the university to close down and move their classes online so students can continue their education without risking their health.
Rehman says he sent out a mass email to university administrators on Thursday but heard no response.
He says the petition was a collective effort from students who have been continuously discussing their concerns about the spread of COVID-19 on course group chats on Facebook.
On their Twitter page Friday morning, the U of G responded to students that they will have an announcement regarding the rest of the semester within a few hours.
Conestoga College also said it will be providing an update later on Friday.
Currently, on their web page, U of G says it is following the advice of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health on measures to take to prevent the contraction of COVID-19. They also say they are following the advice of the federal government on actions taken in relation to travel.
Earlier this week, communications officer at the university, Lori Bona Hunt said the university is preparing contingency plans on actions to take in relation to COVID-19 which also includes considering moving classes online.
Rehman says so far, the university sent out an email saying that the school won’t be closed unless a case is confirmed on campus.
He says by the time a case is reported, it will be too late.
Rehman says with studies confirming that the virus can stay alive for three days on plastic and metal, it puts students at high risk of contracting the virus.
“Given the high volume of students who rely on public transportation, attend lectures, study in the library, eat in the University Centre, it just increases rates of exposure,” says Rehman.
“You don’t know which student has it or doesn’t have it.”
Rehman says there are rumours circulating that the university is waiting for midterms to end before taking action.
He says it’s scary having to prioritize academic duties while students fear about contracting the virus.
“If you go to campus, the campus is empty, there’s not a lot of students. There's no population there. People are scared and that's what I'm trying to prove,” says Rehman.
He says when he felt sick last week, he didn’t go on campus because he didn’t want people looking at him in a different way.
“My question is, the university’s own slogan is ‘improve life’ but how are they improving life in this situation?”
“They’re waiting for a case to happen in order to take action. It doesn’t make sense.”
Last week, Laurentian University was the first university to announce its closure as a precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Since then, Western University, Ontario Tech University, Laurentian University, Trent University, all announced that they are either closing their campuses or moving classes online, Rehman says he doesn’t understand what’s preventing the University of Guelph from following suit.