Post-sec students feeling the pinch as coronavirus requires a reduction in dorm density

Alberta-based SAIT students had until yesterday afternoon to vacate dorms, according to an admin email

The campus at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. BREE TRESOOR / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

In an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19, SAIT has requested all resident students from Alberta move out of their dorms, effective immediately.

Students living in residence received an email last Wednesday evening requesting they return to their families by Monday, March 23 at noon.

“This is out of an abundance of caution,” said SAIT spokesperson Chris Gerritsen.

“There is a need to decrease density at SAIT Residence and reduce overall risk to our community,” he said.

Completing the journalism program from her family’s farm

For Amber Sugai, a second-year journalism student from Lethbridge, this meant moving back home to complete her final semester remotely.

“SAIT residence was emailing all students last week saying we won’t have to move and residence will stay open,” said Sugai.

“Then on Wednesday evening around eight o’clock, we got an email saying all Alberta residents must move out by Monday afternoon, and that we would get a pro-rated refund,” she said.

Like many students, Sugai’s three-week practicum at the end of her final semester was cancelled due to the growing threat of COVID-19.

In lieu of work experience, students are being given alternative assignments to complete before graduation in April.

“Completing assignments will be difficult because I live on a farm,” said Sugai.

For a journalism student, living in isolated conditions can create a challenging work environment, she said.

“One of the assignments was an event assignment, and now nobody can finish it,” Sugai said.

Some exceptions made with government approval

While SAIT has stated some exceptions can be made for students without access to alternative accommodations, the process for getting approval is problematic.

Carmen MacCoubrey, a second-year LIT student from Sexsmith, intends to remain in Calgary after graduating in April, and was unable to vacate her dorm by Monday at noon.

“I couldn’t leave right away because my home is a days drive away, and my move-in date for my new apartment isn’t until the first of April,” said MacCoubrey.

MacCoubrey requested to stay in her dorm until April, and was told by residence officials that they needed government approval to authorize her stay, leaving her in limbo.

“Since I didn’t have an answer from them, I was sort of staging a quiet rebellion against leaving for a little bit,” said MacCoubrey.

More COVID-19 concerns at SAIT

Dorm evictions aren’t the only problem COVID-19 is causing for students.

In addition to dorm evacuations and self-isolation, the SAIT VPN which students must log into in order to access necessary software off campus, has been down since last week.

“With the student VPN not working, I don’t think I’ll be able to hand in my final assignment. Everything’s a mess right now,” she said.

With the fallout of her practicum, and the sudden move back to Lethbridge, Sugai feels she was robbed of a proper conclusion to her efforts at SAIT, and a chance to graduate alongside her classmates.

“This was definitely not how I wanted college to end,” she said.

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