MRU students see significant changes to campus services in wake of pandemic
What the remote semester means for campus services — and for your tuition
By Noel Harper, News Editor
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going anywhere soon, and neither are the changes being made to so many long-standing institutions as a result — including education. For post-secondary students, the fall 2020 semester will be like no other, as it will primarily be delivered remotely.
Mount Royal University confirmed plans to move classes to “alternative methods” on June 1, one month ahead of the June 30 deadline the institution gave itself to come to a final decision. Other local institutions, like the University of Calgary and Bow Valley College, communicated their decisions regarding the fall semester in May.
“It’s safe to say that all of us would prefer face-to-face delivery of courses, as well as student supports and services,” MRU President Tim Rahilly said in an email. “We look forward to returning to in-person interactions with students … when we safely can.”
Since then, the university has been tasked with ensuring that campus services can be brought to students — despite many of them being away from the campus itself.
Calgary Transit’s U-Pass — a reduced fare ticket for students at Calgary’s five major universities to use while attending — has been cancelled for the fall and will be deferred to the winter 2020 semester. As a result, students will not be charged a U-Pass fee for the fall.
“Since we are being encouraged to stay at home and many of us will no longer be expected to travel to and from campus every day, we agreed that this is one way to help students save money,” the Students Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) said in a statement.
MRU initially announced there would be no cuts to student fees for the fall semester despite the necessity of remote learning. “We are aware of student concerns regarding fees during a period when access to campus is limited,” read a statement from the university to LiveWire Calgary.
As an alternative to the U-Pass program, SAMRU said it has secured discounted transit tickets for credit students to use instead. Under the plan, a book of 10 tickets would cost $21, a 40 per cent discount of Calgary Transit’s regular price for 10 tickets, which is $35.
“We hope this is yet another valuable service we can offer to make things a little easier,” a SAMRU statement read.
MRU’s Recreation Centre is gradually reopening after closing due to the COVID-19 shutdown. As part of the provincial government’s Stage 2 of economic relaunch, gyms and other indoor fitness facilities were permitted to open on June 12.
The centre staggered their opening to Sept. 8, and will be open to students only for the time being — any full or part-time credit student who pays the recreation and athletics fee will have access. Other members of the public will be welcomed to use the facilities if the trial phase is successful.
“The experience will be different than what you may be accustomed to,” read an email from the university sent to students. On re-opening day, the facility’s fitness centre, track lanes and triple gym will be open for use.
Squash and tennis courts, climbing wall and pool will remain closed, among other components of the centre. There will also be no changing rooms open for use, but day-use lockers will be available on a limited basis.
In February, MRU’s board of directors approved a 10 per cent one-time increase to the recreation and athletics fee as a result of decreased university funding from the provincial government. “We understand some of this may be disappointing, but appreciate your patience,” MRU Recreation wrote in a Facebook posting.
During the remote fall 2020 semester, the health centre, Cougars Campus Store and Wyckham House will be open on campus. Counselling and learning specialist services have moved online.
The services of the Riddell Library and Learning Centre can be accessed by students digitally, but the facility will be partially re-opening to students in the fall. “Please note that these are special accommodations for students who are required to be on campus and need a place to study or access to a computer,” a Twitter thread from the MRU Library account read in part.
Whenever students are on campus, they will be required to wear masks, which will be available at the West Gate security desk.
Enrolment for the fall 2020 semester has increased compared to the previous year — despite the remote nature of the coming semester, registration is up by 1.4 per cent. The preceding spring and summer semesters saw a registration increase of 30 per cent.