Opinions

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor 

On Aug.7, 2020 the Fulcrum published an editorial encouraging incoming students to forego living in residence. I would like to take this opportunity to provide additional information on the heels of the article that was shared. 

The risk associated with the COVID-19 virus remains very real and is not to be taken lightly. Rest assured that the University of Ottawa has taken every measure to minimize risk for the safety of its entire community, including its residents. Although most of our academic activities will remain online, the U of O is offering housing options to those who choose or have already chosen to come to campus. 

Such options have been developed in collaboration with Ottawa Public Health and in accordance with public health directives and with the safety and security of our students in mind. Our reopening plan is similar to what’s being done at other universities across Ontario and in Canada. The U of O’s Housing Service (HS) has been very active in communicating with students wanting to stay in residences, via emails, social media, and live Q&A sessions. Students are well-advised of possible scenarios and mitigating measures the university has put in place to reduce the risks. This includes the possibility of having to move out or to self-isolate should the situation require such actions. We believe students have what they need to make informed decisions and we are ready to welcome those who will opt to live in our residences. 

Contrary to what was published, all students who had already accepted their room offer for residence in the fall at a residence that is no longer available have been offered other choices without penalty or additional cost.

For those who have only submitted an application, Housing Service worked diligently with applicants to find the best suitable options, within certain limits like room availability. We even extended the 100 per cent deposit refund date to allow more flexibility to students. 

Students arriving in Ottawa from international destinations are required to quarantine for 14 days as per Federal Government guidelines. The U of O is offering an option to quarantine on campus on a cost recovery basis only and negotiated a reduced rate with a local hotel to make this transition period as affordable as possible. However, students are welcomed to make their own arrangements to quarantine if they prefer. 

Both the International Office and HS’s Residence Life team have established procedures to be checking in with students and providing them access to all services/virtual programming during their time in quarantine so that they develop a connection and have support during this period. 

All our actions are being taken while respecting all applicable rules regarding privacy and protection of personal information. No information is released to a third party without the student’s written consent unless otherwise stated in the residence agreement. 

The return to campus and residence strategy has been thoughtfully crafted with the student’s overall wellbeing in mind. We understand that this is an unusual year, to say the least, but our hope is that each and every student will find comfort in knowing that their University is taking every precaution to reduce risk, heighten awareness and help stop the spread of this virus. 

Rachelle Clark is the Director Wellness and Recreation Sector, Student Life of the University of Ottawa. 

This letter to the Editor has been edited by the Fulcrum’s Editor-in-Chief to meet the spelling, grammatical and style requirements of the Fulcrum Style Guide. The original letter to the editor sent by Patrick Charette the University of Ottawa’s Director, Institutional Communications can be found below.