Reduce tuitions and extend Covid-19 Student Relief Fund to ALL students

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To:      Mr. David C. Dingwall – President & Vice-Chancellor of Cape Breton University

           Deans and Department Chairs of Cape Breton University

 Re:    Reduce tuitions and extend Covid-19 Student Relief Fund to ALL students

We, the undersigned, are writing to you as members of the Cape Breton University student community who are very concerned about COVID-19 pandemic and negatively affected by nation-wide Covid-19 preventive measures. Cape Breton University (CBU) has correctly identified and communicated the increased stress and financial burdens that CBU students have been placed due to Covid-19.

To protect the health and safety of our campus community and to stop the wide spread of Covid-19 in Nova Scotia, CBU has suspended all in-person classes of 2019 Winter semester since March 14th, 2020. And the classes are switched to online learning for the remaining weeks of the semester, i.e. since March 16th, 2020 to April 20th, 2020. Besides, CBU decided on March 20th, 2020 that there is no face-to-face course offered during the 2020 Spring and Summer semesters but remotely learning.  

Moreover, CBU has established the Perseverance: Student Relief Fund that is an emergency bursary fund to assist CBU students facing hardship due to Covid-19. To be eligible for the fund, a student must meet the criteria including: (i) full-time enrolment in the January 2020 semester; (ii) demonstrated loss of income due to Covid-19; (iii) ineligibility for Federal or Provincial aid packages or Employment Insurance; and (iv) currently residing in Cape Breton.

Given the current circumstances, CBU President, Deans and Department Chairs have an opportunity to be effective leaders in protecting communities and proactively supporting the mental health of the students to get through this unprecedented crisis.

There is no precedent for managing and carrying out semesters under the current conditions. Thus, CBU must consider providing additional supportive and preventative measures to help students alleviate the stress, financial burdens, as well as protect the mental health of students.

Reduce tuitions

CBU should consider reducing tuitions for the proportion of the 2019 Winter semester and 2020 Spring and Summer semesters to be conducted remotely.

The 2019 Winter semester was initially designed to be delivered as in-class courses and exams. Therefore, students paid tuitions for in-person classes hold during the semester. However, due to Covid-19 outbreak, the one third of 2019 Winter semester (5 out of 15 weeks) was switched to online learning and exams. Given that, the CBU is urged to reduce the tuition of the 2019 Winter semester for 5-week online learning and exams. Specifically, CBU should consider reducing this tuition by 20% and credit that amount to students’ account for upcoming courses or refund it in cash for final year students.

Moreover, CBU also need to reduce the tuitions for courses delivered remotely during the 2020 Spring and Summer semesters to the ones that are equal to the tuitions of online courses that CBU is now offering for students doing distance learning.   

 Extend Perseverance: Student Relief Fund to ALL students

The global Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected students in different ways, such as:

·    Students having jobs prior to the pandemic have lost jobs and income, and some of them are not qualified for provincial or federal employee assistance programs;

·     Students who were looking for part-time or summer jobs during February 2020 and March 2020 have lost job opportunites, and, importantly those students are not qualified for any provincial and federal employee assistance programs;

·     The possibility of finding part-time or summer jobs during this difficult time is very little;

·     Despite very little chance of earning income in upcoming months to cope with this crisis time, students still have to pay for the basic needs of them and their family including rent, grocery, and utilities.

Taking into account of the foregoing, we believe that not only students with loss of income due to Covid-19 but also the other students (who are unable to find jobs prior the pandemic) are facing financial difficulties to cover their basic needs for upcoming months possibly. To make sure that no one is left behind during this crisis, we call CBU to remove the criteria “demonstrate loss of income due to Covid-19” from Perseverance: Student Relief Fund to extend it to ALL students who are in need of the fund. Other universities in Canada who have financially supported their students in that way, including:

·   The University of New Brunswick.

·    Saint Mary’s University.

·    Concordia University.

·    Western University.

And more universities are moving towards it every day.

Providing the said support would help alleviate students’ stress levels

We believe that giving the above supports for students is the right call for the following reasons. 

·    This unprecedented situation brings a high degree of stress and anxiety to every single student. Many of us are restricted from traveling to home countries; stressed about moving out and abruptly changing accommodation; isolated from friends and support networks; in fear of the health of our loved ones; and in fear of our own wellbeing.

·    During this crisis time, all students are deserved to be supported and receive grants from CBU if they need the fund whether they have jobs or not, whether they are suffering loss of income or not.

·    Canadian provincial and federal governments will not likely be relaxing preventative measures anytime before summer. Thus, the additional stress on the students will continue.

·    Many students are parents who will now be bearing more substantial financial burdens to take good care of their children.

·     Last but not least, even if professors do have e-learning experience, preparing an effective e-learning environment that could replace the quality of learning available in class takes more time than we had left available in the 2019 Winter semester. Here, both professors and administrators had been forced to take a triage approach in getting material to the students in a very short time. As a result, the reducing quality of teaching and learning compared to the initial expectation is likely an inevitable outcome of online learning during this semester.

CBU and its Faculties have an opportunity to show their leadership in supporting the mental and physical health of the students. We are thankful for what CBU have done and respectfully request that CBU and all Faculties consider implementing the above proposals in the best interest of communities.

Cape Breton University Student Community

April 20th, 2020