Transcript: Back to University in a Pandemic | Oct 08, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, checkered shirt, and gray tie.

A caption on screen reads "Back to university in a pandemic. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE STUDENTS WENT BACK TO SCHOOL THIS FALL. IT WASN'T AS IT USUALLY IS - NO BIG FROSH WEEK OR ORIENTATION BLOWOUTS. BUT IT WASN'T NOTHING EITHER. YOU MIGHT EVEN BE SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT STUDENTS WENT BACK AT ALL, RATHER THAN DOING THEIR STUDIES ONLINE. THAT'S BECAUSE IT'S A REAL MASHUP. HERE TO GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT POST-SECONDARY LIFE IS LIKE RIGHT NOW: WE WELCOME, IN LONDON, ONTARIO: HOPE MAJOOD, A THIRD-YEAR ENGLISH AND CLASSICS STUDENT AT WESTERN UNIVERSITY, AND COORDINATING EDITOR OF THE STUDENT NEWSPAPER, THE WESTERN GAZETTE...

Hope is in her twenties, with long straight chestnut hair. She's wearing a burgundy sweater.

Steve continues IN ORILLIA, ONTARIO: BRANDON RHEAL AMYOT, A THIRD-YEAR POLITICAL SCIENCE AND MEDIA STUDENT AT LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY...

Brandon is in his twenties, with short spiky brown hair and a full beard. He's wearing glasses and a beige sweater.

Steve continues IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO: SOFIA ZAMORANO, A FIRST-YEAR ENGINEERING STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO...

Sofia is in her teens, with long straight brown hair. She's wearing a pink sweater.

Steve continues AND THE BEACHES NEIGHBOURHOOD IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL, THERE'S: AKSHAY MOHAN, AN INTERNATIONAL PhD STUDENT SPECIALIZING IN MENTAL HEALTH AT THE CENTRE FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND HUMAN RESOURCES AT THE U OF T, WHERE HE IS ALSO A TEACHING ASSISTANT AND STUDENT ORGANIZER...

Akshay is in his thirties, clean-shaven, with short dark hair. He's wearing a black sweater.

Steve continues IT'S GREAT TO SEE SOME OF YOU AGAIN AND SOME OF YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME, BECAUSE WE DID HAVE A FEW OF YOU ON THE PROGRAM I GUESS SOME MONTHS AGO TO CHECK IN, AND WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE WISE TO SEE HOW THINGS ARE GOING NOW THAT YOU'RE, OH, I DON'T KNOW, WHAT, FOUR OR FIVE, SIX WEEKS INTO YOUR SCHOOL YEARS. HOPE, START US OFF. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

The caption changes to "Hope Majood. Western University Student."
Then, it changes again to "Majoring in screen time."

Hope says I'M DOING OKAY. IT'S DEFINITELY DIFFERENT THAN IT'S EVER BEEN BEFORE. SO ALL OF MY CLASSES PERSONALLY ARE ONLINE THIS YEAR. ONE OF MY ROOMMATES HAS CLASSES IN PERSON. BUT THE WHOLE SITUATION... I'M SPENDING 12 HOURS A DAY ON MY COMPUTER AS OPPOSED TO CLASSES WITH MY FRIENDS WHICH IS DEFINITELY TAKING ITS TOLL.

Steve says TAKING ITS TOLL IN WHICH WAY, 12 HOURS A DAY ON A COMPUTER?


The caption changes to "The caption changes to "Hope Majood. Western Gazette."

Hope says I THINK IT'S A LOT. IT'S EYE STRAIN, IT'S DEFINITELY A MENTAL TOLL AS WELL. SO I THINK IT DEFINITELY IS TAKING AWAY FROM THAT HUMAN CONNECTION AND IT'S A LITTLE ISOLATING, I'D SAY.

Steve says INTERESTING. BRANDON, HOW ABOUT YOU?

The caption changes to "Brandon Rhéal Amyot. Lakehead University Student."

Brandon says YEAH, I WOULD ECHO THOSE COMMENTS. IT'S DEFINITELY BEEN CHALLENGING. I'M ALSO ON MY COMPUTER MORE OF THE DAY THAN I AM DOING ANYTHING ELSE AT THIS RATE, AND IT'S A STRAIN ON THE EYES, STRAIN ON THE BACK, STRAIN ON YOUR WRISTS WHEN YOU'RE TYPING. THERE'S A LOT OF ELEMENTS THAT JUST AREN'T THE SAME. AND I DON'T KNOW THAT I EXPECTED IT TO BE, BUT I DON'T THINK I QUITE EXPECTED IT TO BE LIKE THIS.

Steve says AND CONFIRMING, ARE YOU ALL ONLINE ALL THE TIME FOR YOUR CLASSES?

Brandon says YEAH, FOR MYSELF.

Steve says YOU ARE. OKAY. SOFIA, GIVE US YOUR UPDATE, IF YOU WOULD?

The caption changes to "Sofia Zamorano. University of Toronto Student."

Sofia says YEAH, FOR SURE. IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD ME A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO THAT I WAS GOING TO BE STARTING MY FIRST YEAR OF UNIVERSITY COMPLETELY ONLINE, I DON'T THINK I WOULD HAVE BELIEVED IT. IT'S DEFINITELY BEEN AN ADJUSTMENT TO NOT ONLY HAVE THE TRANSITION INTO UNIVERSITY BUT ALSO HAVE THE TRANSITION INTO ONLINE UNIVERSITY. SO IT'S BEEN DEFINITELY CHALLENGING, BUT I'M ENJOYING IT AND IT'S BEEN... IT HAS ITS UPS AND DOWNS BUT I STILL LOVE IT.

Steve says INTERESTING THAT YOU SAY YOU'RE ENJOYING IT. WHAT ASPECTS OF IT ARE YOU ENJOYING?

Sofia says I GUESS THE FIRSTS THAT UNIVERSITY COMES WITH. I'M MEETING A LOT OF NEW PEOPLE. EVEN IF IT'S ONLINE, I'M IN RESIDENCE MEETING NEW PEOPLE AS WELL. DEFINITELY GETTING TO STUDY WHAT I ENJOY ALL THE TIME IS A BONUS, EVEN THOUGH IT MAY BE ONLINE. IT'S STILL SOMETHING THAT I ENJOY.

Steve says ARE YOU IN RESIDENCE OR AT HOME?

Sofia says YEAH, I AM IN RESIDENCE.

Steve says YOU ARE IN RESIDENCE? OKAY. ARE ALL THE ROOMS IN RESIDENCE FILLED?

Sofia says THERE'S DEFINITELY A LOT OF EMPTY ROOMS HERE. I KNOW WE ARE MAINTAINING JUST SINGLE ROOMS, NO ROOMMATES, BECAUSE OF COVID RESTRICTIONS AND SAFETY PROCEDURES. SO IT IS QUITE EMPTY. BUT THERE ARE STILL A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF STUDENTS IN RESIDENCE.

Steve says GOTCHA. AKSHAY, HOW ABOUT YOU?

The caption changes to "Akshay Mohan. University of Toronto Student."

Akshay says OVERALL I WOULD SAY IT'S DEFINITELY BEEN AN ADJUSTMENT. ON THE POSITIVE SIDE OF THIS ONLINE UNIVERSITY ADJUSTMENT IS NOT HAVING TO COMMUTE BETWEEN THE EAST END TO DOWNTOWN TORONTO. IT IS ALSO EASIER TO BE ABLE TO SWITCH BETWEEN DIFFERENT THINGS BECAUSE MOSTLY ALL OF THEM ARE ON THE COMPUTER IN THE SAME PHYSICAL SPACE, WHICH IS MY HOME. I THINK ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE, THERE'S DEFINITELY THIS ASPECT OF LOSING THAT SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL CONNECTION THAT ONE NATURALLY HAS WHEN ONE IS PHYSICALLY CO-LOCATED IN A CLASSROOM. AND ALSO STUDYING, I THINK, IS EXTREMELY HARD BECAUSE THESE NATURAL STUDY GROUPS FORM WHEN ONE IS IN CLASSES, WHICH I DO NOT THINK OF FORMING WHEN ONE IS DOING THINGS ONLINE.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says MM-HMM. BRANDON, LET ME GO TO YOU ON THIS ANGLE OF THE STORY, BECAUSE WE'VE HAD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS ON THIS PROGRAM, WE'VE HAD COLLEGE PRESIDENTS ON, YOU KNOW, RECTORS, PROVOSTS, TEACHING ASSISTANTS, EVERYBODY. THEY AT SOME POINT ACKNOWLEDGED THE ADDED MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THAT ARISE WHEN YOU SPEND 12 HOURS IN FRONT OF SCREENS AND HAVE NO HUMAN CONTACT. WHAT I WANT TO KNOW FROM YOU, BRANDON, FOR EXAMPLE, LAKEHEAD AND ORILLIA, HAVE THEY PUT EXTRA MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS IN PLACE TO HELP STUDENTS AT THIS TIME?

Brandon says I DON'T KNOW ABOUT EXTRA. THE REALITY IS THAT OUR INSTITUTIONS HAD ANAEMIC FUNDING BEFORE THE PANDEMIC AND WE'VE SEEN RECENTLY AN ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS, WE TEND NOT TO SEE THOSE THINGS ACTUALLY TRICKLE DOWN TO HIRING MORE STAFF. AND FOR LAKEHEAD, I KNOW THAT SUPPORTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR ME AND I'M ACCESSING THEM, WHICH IS GREAT, BUT IT'S CERTAINLY NOT THE SAME AND IT'S NOT THE SAME... I WANT TO SAY QUALITY, BUT THAT MIGHT BE UNKIND OF THE IN-PERSON ASPECT OF COUNSELLING, OTHER MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS. SO THE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES I THINK ARE TRYING THEIR BEST TO MAKE THE BEST OF THE SITUATION, BUT IT'S NOT WHAT IT SHOULD BE.

Steve says UNDERSTOOD. SOFIA, BASED ON WHAT YOU KNOW OF YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES AND THOSE OF OTHERS WHO ARE LIVING IN RESIDENCE WITH YOU AT U OF T, IF SOMEBODY IS IN TROUBLE, DO THEY HAVE ACCESS TO EXTRA MENTAL HEALTH HELP?

Sofia says NOT THAT I KNOW OF EXTRA, BECAUSE I'M NOT SURE OF THE RESOURCES THAT WE HAD IN PREVIOUS YEARS. BUT I DO KNOW THAT WE HAVE QUITE A FEW RESOURCES THAT WE CAN ACCESS IF WE EVER DO NEED THEM. I KNOW WE HAVE A GREAT RESIDENCE LIFETIME HERE THAT IS WILLING TO HELP THAT I HAVE ALSO ACCESSED MYSELF. SO I KNOW THAT THERE ARE SUPPORTS. I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY COMPARE TO IN THE PREVIOUS YEARS.

Steve says UNDERSTOOD. OKAY. YOU KNOW, HOPE, YOU HAD A PIECE IN THE TORONTO STAR NOT TOO LONG AGO, WHICH IS PRETTY GOOD FOR A UNIVERSITY STUDENT. SO I WANT TO READ A LITTLE EXCERPT FROM THAT AND THEN COME OUT WITH A QUESTION. SHELDON, CAN YOU PUT THIS TRAFFIC UP, PLEASE.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Full tuition?" The quote reads "When classes suddenly switched online in late March, no one pretended the quality of instruction was the same as in the classroom. Students were told to be patient and understanding as their university and professors adjusted to this 'new normal' -but now, months later, nothing has changed and universities must acknowledge students' losses.
Students do not learn as effectively online as they do in-person."
Quoted from Hope Majood, Toronto Star. July 20, 2020.

Steve says NOW, ADMITTEDLY YOU WROTE THAT A FEW MONTHS AGO AND NOW WE'RE IN OCTOBER. IS ANYTHING DIFFERENT NOW?

The caption changes to "Hope Majood, @uwogazette."

Hope says I WOULD SAY A COUPLE OF THINGS ARE DIFFERENT. ONE THING IS A LOT OF PROFESSORS I DID HAVE WHO WERE STRUGGLING WITH THAT ONLINE TRANSITION, BE IT THROUGH NOT UNDERSTANDING HOW TO RUN ZOOM CONTENT OR HOW TO RUN OUR COURSE WEBSITE, I THINK A LOT OF THEM HAVE NOW, IF NOT LEARNED THEMSELVES, HAVE GOT TEACHING ASSISTANTS OR OTHER PEOPLE TO HELP THEM OUT. THAT SAID, I WOULD STILL SAY IT DOESN'T COMPARE TO THE IN-PERSON EXPERIENCE ONLY BECAUSE WE'RE NOT ACCESSING ON-CAMPUS SERVICES ANYMORE. ULTIMATELY OUR TUITION PAYS FOR SO MUCH MORE, OUR RECREATION CENTRE FEES, THINGS LIKE LIBRARIES, ACCESS TO COMPUTERS AND PHYSICAL MATERIALS IN THE LIBRARIES. BUT NOW IF NOT TOTALLY INACCESSIBLE TO US, ARE EXTREMELY LIMITED. SO I WOULD SAY... SORRY, PLEASE GO AHEAD.

Steve says I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY, LET ME FOLLOW UP WITH THIS. BECAUSE, IN ESSENCE, I MEAN, I HEARD THE U OF T PRESIDENT SAY THE OTHER DAY THAT HE WAS ESSENTIALLY TOLD ON A FRIDAY THAT THEY NEEDED TO MOVE 6,500 COURSES ONLINE, SOMETHING THAT WOULD NORMALLY TAKE 10 YEARS TO DO AND THEY DID IT OVER A WEEKEND. SO I PRESUME THE STUDENTS HAVE SOME SYMPATHY FOR THE TASK THAT WAS AT HAND FOR THE ADMINISTRATION, TO TRY TO PUT SO MUCH ONLINE IMMEDIATELY?

Hope says YES, ABSOLUTELY, AND I WOULD SAY I HAVE SO MUCH SYMPATHY FOR THE PROFESSORS ESPECIALLY. ULTIMATELY A LOT OF THEM WERE NOT TRAINED HOW TO USE ZOOM OR HOW TO USE ANY TYPE OF ONLINE PLATFORM, BEFORE RUNNING A COURSE FOR HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS ONLINE. I THINK ALL OF THEM DID THEIR BEST AND I THINK ALL OF THEM DID TRY TO BRING A REALLY VALUABLE EXPERIENCE TO THE ONLINE PLATFORM. WHETHER OR NOT THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL IN THAT DUE TO LACK OF TRAINING I THINK IS ANOTHER MATTER ENTIRELY. I DON'T THINK WE CAN DISCOUNT THE FACT THAT STUDENTS DID HAVE A DROP-OFF IN THEIR QUALITY OF EXPERIENCE IN MARCH.

Steve says FOR SURE. AKSHAY, HELP US UNDERSTAND THIS. FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, SOME CLASSES HAPPEN REALTIME ON ZOOM OR SKYPE OR WHATEVER, AND OTHERS, THE INSTRUCTOR OR THE PROFESSOR WILL RECORD SOMETHING, PUT IT UP THERE, AND STUDENTS CAN WATCH IT WHENEVER THEY WANT. HOW IS IT WORKING FOR YOU?

Akshay says I WOULD SAY IT'S BEEN WORKING WELL. I WOULD SAY ONE OF THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS, AS THE STUDENTS HAVE ALSO MENTIONED, THINGS ARE A LOT MORE SMOOTHER AND I HAVE NOT REALLY EXPERIENCED ANY SIGNIFICANT TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. I DO FEEL THERE IS A SOCIAL ASPECT OF THE EXPERIENCE THAT IS MISSING ONLINE JUST BECAUSE YOU CANNOT SEE EVERYONE'S FACES, ESPECIALLY THE OTHER PEER STUDENTS, AND YOU CANNOT HAVE REALTIME CONVERSATIONS WITH THEM AS YOU USED TO. PERSONALLY, FOR ME, THE NOTION OF THE ONLINE CLASSROOM HAS WORKED VERY WELL. IN ONE CLASS WHERE WE HAVE PRE-RECORDED LECTURES THAT WE WATCH OVER THE WEEK, AND THEN IT'S FOLLOWED BY A REALTIME ONLINE COMPONENT WHERE THE FOCUS IS LESS ON DELIVERING THE MATERIAL, BUT THE FOCUS IS ON SHARING WHAT PEOPLE ARE FACING AS CHALLENGES OR QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE MATERIAL, AND THE PROFESSOR HAS BEEN EXCELLENT IN BEING ABLE TO RESOLVE QUESTIONS THERE.

Steve says NOW, SOFIA, IF YOU WERE GOING INTO THE CLASSROOM AND YOU HAD A QUESTION OR A CONCERN OR A QUERY AFTER THE LECTURE WAS OVER, YOU WOULD SIMPLY WALK UP TO THE PROFESSOR AND YOU WOULD ASK HIM OR HER. YOU CAN'T DO THAT NOW. SO HOW DO YOU GET ACCESS TO YOUR PROFESSORS IF YOU NEED IT?

Sofia says THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION. WE HAVE QUITE A FEW PLATFORMS THAT PROFESSORS HAVE SET UP IN ORDER TO ASK QUESTIONS. WE CAN e-mail THEM. WE CONTACT THEM THROUGH OUR STUDENT PORTAL, MANY OTHER WAYS THAT WE CAN CONTACT THEM. SIMILAR TO AKSHAY, MOST OF MY CLASSES HAVE BEEN DELIVERED THROUGH A CLASSROOM METHOD WHERE IT'S ONLINE, PRERECORDED LECTURES AND THEN OFFICE HOURS WHERE WE CAN ASK QUESTIONS AND HAVE DIALOGUE WITH THE PROFESSORS. AND THAT HAS ALSO DEFINITELY HELPED A LOT WHENEVER ANY OF US HAVE QUESTIONS.

Steve says BUT TO BE CLEAR, WHEN YOU NEED THEM, YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THEM?

Sofia says YES.

Steve says YOU CAN, OKAY. BRANDON, WHAT'S YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THAT? IF YOU NEED TO GET TO A PROFESSOR OR AN INSTRUCTOR, CAN YOU?

The caption changes to "Brandon Rhéal Amyot, @BrandonAmyot."

Brandon says IT VARIES, I WOULD SAY. I COME FROM AN AREA WHERE BROADBAND ISN'T ALWAYS ACCESS. FOR A STUDENT, IF YOU SEND AN EMAIL, SOMETIMES IT DOESN'T GO THROUGH, THAT KIND OF THING. GENERALLY MY PROFESSORS ARE RESPONDING WITHIN A FEW HOURS, IF AT MOST, TWO DAYS. IT'S CERTAINLY CHALLENGING WHEN A LOT OF COURSES HAVE CONSOLIDATED. I HAVE A POLITICAL SCIENCE COURSE, AS AN EXAMPLE, THAT'S BEING TAUGHT BETWEEN THE THUNDER BAY AND ORILLIA CAMPUS OF MY SCHOOLS... OR MY SCHOOL. AND I THINK THERE'S ABOUT 60 STUDENTS IN THE CLASS. SO NORMALLY WHAT WOULD BE A 30-PERSON CLASS HAS DOUBLED IN SIZE AND ONLY ONE PROFESSOR WITH NO TAs IS COVERING IT. SO DEFINITELY A CHALLENGE TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE, AND FOR MYSELF, MOST OF MY COURSES ARE ASYNCHRONOUS. SO WE'RE NOT NECESSARILY LEARNING IN REALTIME. AND IT'S SIMPLY BECAUSE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS, SOME OF THEM ARE STILL IN THEIR HOME COUNTRIES, AND IT'S NOT REALLY FAIR TO EXPECT SOMEONE TO SHOW UP AT 3 A.M. FOR AN IN-PERSON OR ZOOM CLASS.

Steve says NO, UNDERSTOOD. OKAY. LET'S DO SOMETHING REALLY CRASS HERE AND TALK ABOUT MONEY. BECAUSE, TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, THERE'S NO POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTION IN THE PROVINCE THAT HAS GIVEN STUDENTS ANY MEANINGFUL BREAKS ON TUITION AND VARIOUS OTHER FEES, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE UNIVERSITY EXPERIENCE OR THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE IS NOTHING LIKE IT WOULD OTHERWISE NORMALLY BE. HOPE, IS THAT YOUR SITUATION AS WELL? DID YOU GET ANY BREAK ON TUITION OR FEES OF ANY KIND?

Hope says WE DID GET SOME BREAK ON ATHLETIC CENTRE FEES BEING A 25 percent CUT. SO THEY SAID IT WAS 50 percent FOR FIRST SEMESTER AND THEN CHARGING FULL FOR SECOND SEMESTER. NOW, THIS WORKED OUT NICE IN THE FIRST SEMESTER GIVEN THAT OUR ATHLETIC CENTRES WERE OPEN AND THEN WESTERN HAD AN OUTBREAK OF A FEW STUDENT GROUPS WHICH RESULTED IN AT LEAST 70 STUDENTS CATCHING THE VIRUS IN THE FIRST MONTH OF CLASSES, AND THEN OUR ATHLETIC CENTRE, WITH VERY GOOD REASON, SHUT DOWN. AND NOW OUR COVID-19 TESTING CLINIC HAS MOVED INSIDE THE REC. CENTRE. SO I DON'T THINK IT'S GOING TO BE OPENING UP ANY TIME SOON AND YET WE ARE STILL PAYING THAT FEE.

Steve says WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

Hope says I DON'T THINK IT'S FAIR. I WAS NEVER THE TYPE OF PERSON WHO WOULD GO TO THE SCHOOL GYM. THAT SAID, MY ROOMMATE WAS AND MY FRIENDS WERE AND ULTIMATELY THIS IS A SERVICE THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM. AND THERE ARE OTHER SERVICES THAT I'M STILL PAYING FOR THAT I'M NOT USING. THE ENTIRE CAMPUS BUILDINGS MANAGEMENT FEE. ULTIMATELY I'M NOT GOING ON CAMPUS. ALL OF MY COURSES ARE ONLINE. I'M SPENDING MOST OF MY DAYS IN MY BEDROOM AT THE DESK IN MY ROOM. AND ULTIMATELY THAT'S A GOOD 100 dollars I'M PAYING TOWARDS THE UPKEEP OF SOMETHING THAT I'M NOT USING.

Steve says YOU'RE NOT USING IT, BUT THEY STILL NEED TO MAINTAIN IT. DOES THAT ARGUMENT HAVE ANY SWAY FOR YOU?

Hope says IT DOES HAVE A SWAY FOR ME. I UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT ULTIMATELY I ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT UNIVERSITIES HAVE HUGE RESERVES AND RAINY DAY FUNDS THAT THEY SAVE FOR EMERGENCY SERVICES, EXACTLY LIKE THIS, THAT THEY HAVE IN AIR OPERATING BUDGET. THEY'RE NOT TAPPING INTO IT AND IT'S CONTINUING TO COLLECT INTEREST.

Steve says ANY BREAK IN TUITION OR SUNDRY FEES FOR YOU?

Sofia says WE HAVE DEFERRED SOME FEE PAYMENTS AND UNIVERSITY HAS EXTENDED SOME SERVICE FEE CHARGES. SO IN THAT CASE, WE HAVE GOTTEN SOME LEEWAY. AS FOR THE OVERALL COST OF TUITION, IT IS THE SAME AS PREVIOUS YEARS.

Steve says WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE TUITION IS THE SAME BUT THE EXPERIENCE IS QUITE DIFFERENT?

Sofia says IT IS A LITTLE DISAPPOINTING, AND NOW THAT I GET HERE, I CAN REALIZE IT EVEN MORE. I'M DEFINITELY NOT GETTING THE SAME EXPERIENCE AS I WOULD AS IN PERSON. AS HOPE MENTIONED, THERE IS A LOT OF SERVICES AND FACILITIES THAT I'M NOT USING. I HAVEN'T BEEN TO THE ATHLETIC CENTRE ONCE YET SINCE I STARTED UNIVERSITY AND I HAVEN'T BEEN TO THE LIBRARY AS MUCH AS I HAVE WANTED TO. SO IT'S DEFINITELY DIFFICULT TO SEE THAT I'M PAYING AS MUCH AS SOMEBODY IN PREVIOUS YEARS WOULD HAVE. HOWEVER, MY EXPERIENCE IN UNIVERSITY GOES AS FAR AS MY LAPTOP.

Steve says RIGHT. AN ENGINEERING DEGREE I THINK... NOW YOU CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG HERE... COSTS MORE THAN A GENERAL BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE... IS THAT RIGHT?

Sofia says YES, IT IS A LITTLE BIT MORE.

Steve says WHAT ARE YOU PAYING?

Sofia says ROUGHLY AROUND 15,000 dollars FOR TUITION A YEAR.

Steve says 15,000. OKAY. NOW, THE UNIVERSITY'S POSITION WOULD BE... YOU KNOW, AT THE END OF THE DAY, THE EXPERIENCE MIGHT BE DIFFERENT BUT THE PIECE OF PAPER YOU'RE GOING TO GET IS THE SAME AS EVERYBODY ELSE'S, AND THEREFORE YOU SHOULD HAVE TO PAY THE SAME AMOUNT. DOES THAT ARGUMENT HAVE ANY SWAY WITH YOU?

Sofia says IT DOES HAVE SOME SWAY BECAUSE IT IS TRUE, I DO GET THE SAME PIECE OF PAPER, AFTER ALL, AS ANY OTHER ENGINEER WOULD. HOWEVER, AS OF RIGHT NOW, I HAVEN'T HAD ANY LABS IN PERSON. IN COMPARISON TO OTHER YEARS. I HAVEN'T HAD, YOU KNOW, THE ONE-ON-ONE EXPERIENCE, THE SOCIALIZATION THAT I GET FROM IN-PERSON CLASSES, AND I FEEL LIKE THAT IS DEFINITELY A MAJOR COMPONENT INTO THE ENGINEERING COURSE.

Steve says BRANDON, WHAT'S THE FINANCIAL HIT FOR YOU LIKE?

Brandon says STILL PAYING THE SAME PRICES. UNFORTUNATELY FOR US IN ORILLIA, OUR YMCA IS PERMANENTLY SHUT DOWN, AND THAT WAS OUR RECREATION FACILITY. SO WE'RE IN A BIT OF A UNIQUE POSITION WITH THAT ONE. BUT IN TERMS OF ALL THE OTHER FEES, WE'RE STILL PAYING THE SAME AMOUNT. AND FRANKLY I UNDERSTAND, YOU KNOW, THE REALITY IS, UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES STILL HAVE TO KEEP THE BUILDINGS RUNNING, THEY STILL HAVE TO PAY STAFF, THERE ARE STILL ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS. THE LARGER PROBLEM IS JUST THAT THE PROVINCE LAST YEAR CUT 680 MILLION dollars FROM POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS AND 80 MILLION dollars FROM COLLEGES, AND THEN STUDENTS ARE STILL PAYING A LOT OF THE UPFRONT COSTS OF POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS. SO IT GOES BACK TO THE POINT THAT WHAT WE'RE FACING RIGHT NOW DOESN'T EXIST INSIDE A BUBBLE. AND I DON'T THINK THE PROVINCE HAS SHOWN ANY WILLINGNESS TO RESPOND TO THAT FACT.

Steve says I THINK IF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE WERE HERE HE WOULD SAY WE DIDN'T ACTUALLY CUT THEIR BUDGETS. WHAT WE DID WAS WE CUT TUITION BY 10 percent. NOW THE EFFECT OF THAT WAS TO STARVE THE POST SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS TO THE TUNE OF 600 MILLION PLUS dollars, THAT YOU POINTED OUT, BUT FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH, THE MINISTER OF FINANCE WOULD SAY, I DIDN'T CUT THEM, I GAVE STUDENTS A BREAK. DO YOU SEE IT THAT WAY AT ALL?

Brandon says I WOULD DISAGREE WITH THE MINISTER OF FINANCE ON THAT ONE. YES, WE DID SEE A 10 percent INCREASE IN OUR TUITION, BUT WE ALSO SAW A REAL HIT TO OUR INSTITUTIONS, WHICH MEANT A DECREASE IN THE QUALITY OF OUR EDUCATION. SO IN THE LONG RUN IT DIDN'T ACTUALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE. WHAT THE PROVINCE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT IS DECREASING TUITION OVER TIME TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR STUDENTS IN TERMS OF THAT COST OF EDUCATION, WHICH AT THIS POINT, IF POSTSECONDARY IS AS ESSENTIAL AS A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA WAS 30 YEARS AGO AND THEY SHOULD BE INCREASING THE FUNDING TO POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS FOR RESEARCH, FOR, YOU KNOW, EQUIPMENT, FOR SUPPORTS AND FOR MORE FACULTY. THAT WAY OUR EDUCATION CAN REALLY BE WORLD CLASS.

Steve says AKSHAY, LET ME GET THE FINANCIAL STORY FROM YOU. ARE YOU PAYING THE SAME YOU WOULD AS IF YOU WERE GOING TO CLASSES?

Akshay says I WOULD SAY I AM PAYING THE SAME. I'M PERSONALLY IN A VERY FORTUNATE SITUATION THAT I'M PART OF THE FUNDED COHORT. SO MY TUITION AND ANCILLARY FEES ARE COMPLETELY COVERED BY MY DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO. HAVING SAID THAT, I DO FEEL FOR STUDENTS BOTH INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS DOMESTIC STUDENTS WHO ARE IN THE SELF-FUNDED PROGRAM. I THINK FOR THEM IT IS A LOT OF PRESSURE BECAUSE ON ONE HAND THE LIKELY EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES THAT THEY HAD OUTSIDE AND ON CAMPUS WOULD HAVE DECREASED. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, OVERALL THERE'S A NET INCREASE IN TUITION OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS.

Steve says LET'S JUST SEE IF WE CAN GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT CAMPUS LIFE IS LIKE RIGHT NOW. SOFIA, I'M GOING TO START WITH YOU BECAUSE I WENT TO UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO AS WELL 42 YEARS AGO. MY GOODNESS. OKAY. 42 YEARS AGO. AND MY RECOLLECTION WAS THE ENGINEERING STUDENTS BACK THEN WERE A BUNCH OF RABBLE ROUSING CRAZYHEADS. AND THE LADY GODIVA MEMORIAL BAND AND PAINTING THE TESTICLES OF THE HORSE PINK AND ALL THAT CRAZY KIND OF STUFF. DID YOU GET TO DO ANY OF THAT STUFF THIS YEAR?

The caption changes to "Campus life."

Sofia says YOU KNOW, IT'S FUNNY YOU MENTION THAT. I DID GET TO DO SOME OF IT ALTHOUGH NOT QUITE THE SAME AS PREVIOUS YEARS. WE GOT A LITTLE FROSH KIT IN THE MAIL AND IN THERE CAME ANYTHING WE WOULD NEED TO DO ALL OF THOSE TRADITIONS THROUGH ZOOM. I GOT A LITTLE HORSE WHERE WE COULD PAINT THE HORSE ON OUR OWN. I GOT A LITTLE JAR OF FACE PAINT, AND WE KIND OF PAINTED OUR OWN FACE IN THE WAY WE WANTED TO. SO IT WASN'T NECESSARILY THE SAME AS PREVIOUS YEARS. THEY DEFINITELY TRIED TO MAINTAIN THE TRADITIONS AND THE SPIRIT OF LADY GODIVA AND MR. BLOOMGOLD AND ALL THE FUN TRADITIONS WE ALWAYS HAD, THEY TRIED TO KEEP THEM ALIVE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Steve says DID IT WORK FOR YOU?

Sofia says I DEFINITELY GOT AN EXPERIENCE. IT WAS FUN. IT WASN'T THE SAME, I CAN IMAGINE. BUT I STILL GOT TO MEET A FEW PEOPLE ONLINE AND STAY IN THE SPIRIT, I GUESS.

Steve says HOPE, DO YOU ACTUALLY GET A CHANCE TO WALK AROUND THE CAMPUS OF WESTERN UNIVERSITY?

Hope says YES, I DO A LITTLE. I WAS ACTUALLY ON CAMPUS YESTERDAY DOING A LITTLE PROJECT FOR THE NEWSPAPER. IT'S REALLY WEIRD. IT'S SO QUIET. I'M USED TO IT BEING A HUGE BUSTLING KIND OF BEATING HEART OF LONDON'S CITY. I'M AROUND THERE AND MAYBE SEEING 100 PEOPLE PASSING BY IN FOUR HOURS. YEAH. IT'S QUIET AND EERIE.

Steve says NOT WHAT YOU HAD IN MIND, I GUESS.

Hope says I THINK WHEN I KNEW WE WERE IN A PANDEMIC, IT IS SIMILAR TO WHAT I HAD IN MIND. IF ANYTHING, THERE ARE MAYBE EVEN MORE PEOPLE THAT I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED TO HAVE BEEN ON CAMPUS. WESTERN IS RUNNING 20 TO 30 PERCENT OF ITS COURSES IN-PERSON THIS SUMMER, WHICH MEANS WE HAVE SOME ON-CAMPUS ACTIVITY. THAT SAID, IT'S A STARK COMPARISON FROM ONE YEAR TO THE NEXT WHERE IT USED TO BE A STUDENT HUB OF ACTIVITY CONSTANTLY HAPPENING, AND INITIATIVES CONSTANTLY HAPPENING. AND NOW IT'S JUST KIND OF QUIET.

Steve says YOU KNOW, WESTERN WAS ONE OF THE FEW UNIVERSITIES THAT ACTUALLY SAID IT WAS GOING TO REOPEN AND PUT STUDENTS ON CAMPUS, AND THEN, OF COURSE, AS YOU POINTED OUT, THOSE OUTBREAKS TOOK PLACE AND THEN THEY HAD TO SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN. AND I WONDER IF YOU'RE MORE TICKED OFF ABOUT THE FACT THAT THEY SORT OF, YOU KNOW, OPENED AND GAVE PEOPLE, AS IT TURNED OUT, A FALSE SENSE OF HOPE AS TO WHAT THE YEAR WOULD BE LIKE, ONLY TO TAKE IT AWAY?

Hope says I WOULD SAY FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, THE EXPERIENCE DIDN'T CHANGE THAT MUCH AFTER THE SHUTDOWN, AT LEAST PERSONALLY. SO WHAT WE HAD BEFORE THE SHUTDOWNS WAS SOME IN-PERSON CLUB MEETINGS ON CAMPUS, AS WELL AS OUR ATHLETIC CENTRES. THAT WAS REALLY IT. OUR LIBRARIES ARE STILL OPEN, AS THEY WERE BEFORE, AS IS THE ACCESS TO CAMPUS BUILDINGS AND KIND OF OUR LITTLE EATERIES, SOME OF THEM ARE STILL OPEN FOR PICKUP AND TAKEOUT, WHICH IS WHAT MOST PEOPLE WERE DOING ANYWAY, MOST PEOPLE WERE NOT DOING THE DINE-IN OPTIONS. TO THE SECOND PART OF YOUR QUESTION, I AM A LITTLE TICKED OFF THAT THESE IN-PERSON CLUB MEETINGS AND ORIENTATION WEEK DIDN'T HAVE [indiscernible]. AND I AM A LITTLE TICKED OFF IT DID GO THAT WAY. I THINK THERE'S NO PROOF THAT SPREAD OF THE VIRUS HAPPENED ON CAMPUS. THAT SAID, I THINK IT WAS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY RISK, I DON'T THINK YOU CAN EXPECT THAT TO CHANGE OVERNIGHT JUST BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC, AND I THINK THE ADMINISTRATION SHOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER PREPARED AND SHOULD HAVE ANTICIPATED THAT, AND ULTIMATELY SHOULD HAVE PROBABLY HAD A SAFER BACK-TO-SCHOOL PLAN FOR US.

The caption changes to "Producer: Sandra Gionas, @sandragionas."
Then, it changes again to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says I'M AFRAID THAT'S OUR TIME. I DO ON BEHALF OF EVERYBODY WATCHING THIS WISH YOU EVENTUALLY AT SOME POINT IN YOUR SCHOLASTIC POSTSECONDARY CAREERS A NICE, NORMAL UNIVERSITY POSTSECONDARY EXPERIENCE THAT YOU'RE PAYING FOR. I HOPE EVENTUALLY YOU GET IT. HOPE, BRANDON, SOFIA, AKSHAY, SO GREAT OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT AND GOOD LUCK.

Watch: Back to University in a Pandemic