With the sharp rise of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and the university’s subsequent decision to postpone an in-person return for the majority of its courses, UMSU’s plans for the 2022 winter term — such as a skating rink on the quad — have been altered.
“Plain and simple, all of the plans we had are cancelled and we’re shifting some things to online,” said UMSU president Brendan Scott.
“We also wanted to do a lot of tabling in University Centre. That’s actually, to me, the big one because it really engages students who are on campus.”
UMSU will instead be taking support from the university and will be promoting virtual activities that had already been scheduled by the University of Manitoba. This includes Winter Welcome virtual events and Prep Days.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s going to be basically identical to what winter orientation looked like last year where we just hold some info sessions through different online platforms.”
The U of M initially planned for winter term activities to be held in person.
In a Dec. 20 email to students and staff, Michael Benarroch, president and vice-chancellor of the U of M, stated: “From now until the end of the Winter Term break on February 26, 2022, all non-essential activity will continue remotely.”
“Effective immediately, we are asking staff to work remotely and for course activity to be moved to remote delivery wherever possible,” he wrote.
Scott said UMSU will follow the university’s lead.
“We’re mostly just, I guess you could say, piggybacking off the university,” he said. “Wherever they need our support, we’re there.”
Scott also noted UMSU did not want to get in the way of the online info sessions the university plans on offering, suggesting that most students would be going to the university-specific info sessions anyway where UMSU executives will be present.
“The executive team met and thought, ‘What’s the best way that we can disseminate our UMSU information,’ and we just thought, not stepping on the university’s toes [since] they already had things planned and they let us know the dates,” he said.
“It just seemed so much simpler […] than creating our own events.”
Scott said UMSU worked fast in early January to develop alternative plans for winter orientation.
“We got the email from the university saying that the rink would not be a possibility,” he explained.
“We knew that tabling [was] just not worth the risk. Frost Fest is easily out the window.”
Scott also noted that besides Winter Orientation, all other UMSU events that were initially planned to be held in person will be moved online.
“We have that big Healthy Sexuality campaign that goes on throughout February,” he said.
“It was very well planned for this in-person format, and now [it’s all moving] online. It really is only the winter orientation things that we’ve cancelled. Everything else we’re just moving online.”
Despite the turmoil, Scott said UMSU is taking “an optimistic approach.”
“We’re going to try to have a Welcome Back social on March 4,” he said.
“That’s the tentative date. Until we hear otherwise that we aren’t in person for the second half of the semester, that’s when, again, we’ll just transition all these events online.”