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Omicron: U of C suspends in-person exams for the remainder of 2021

Students at the University of Calgary support the move to cancel remaining in-person exams but are frustrated the decision was made last minute.

In a message to students, Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor at UCalgary, said that in light of the Covid-19 Omicron variant in-person exams in the Dec. 20-22 block would be cancelled.  Online exams will continue, the note read.

The note said that instructors will be in touch with students about alternative plans for final grading.

The school also said that activities from Jan. 3 to 7 would also be moved online. Remote work is encouraged until Jan. 9.

“These actions reduce in-person activity and allow us time to gather information about the Omicron variant – its transmissibility, its severity, its effects on various populations, and the effectiveness of vaccines – that will allow better decision-making about the start of the winter semester,” McCauley’s message read.

The University of Calgary Students’ Union said they support the decision, but not the timing.

In a statement posted online, the SUUC said they were asked for input last week. They wanted a decision made and communicated to students by Dec. 17. They also wanted consistency in final grading.

“The university dithered and has presented no clear plan across the institution,” their statement read.

“After 22 months in a pandemic, it is unconscionable that the university does not have a campus-wide contingency plan for this situation or a quick pivot to online exams.”

The University statement was delivered on Sunday, Dec. 19.

Post-Christmas return

The University said in-person instruction is scheduled to resume Jan. 10. They said it’s possible that could be delayed. They encourage staff and students to be prepared for that scenario.

“Every day brings additional information on Omicron’s effects. These moves allow us time to gather vital data on whether it is appropriate to proceed with our original plans for the start of winter semester,” McCauley said.

The SU is hoping the university will be more decisive. They’d like to see a decision before Christmas.

“In addition, the university has committed to deciding on the nature of January course delivery on January 4. This will be too late for many students and fails to allow them adequate time to plan.”

Alon with an earlier decision, the SU wants an equitable approach for those with cancelled exams. They want the university to give the option of writing a final exam at a later date.

They’d also like to see a contingency plan in the event of future pandemic disruptions.