A student led petition to move all Queen's University in-person exams to an online format has already collected over 4,000 signatures in less than a day.
The petition, started by student Abby Maclean, says packing students into gymnasiums for exams is dangerous and tone-deaf to Kingston's current struggles to contain the spread of COVID.
"Having exams in person put thousands of students at risk and likely means that many students won’t be able to see family who are particularly vulnerable to COVID over the holidays," the petition reads.
"This petition is a call for Queen’s to move exams online and listen to students for once."
Maclean also wrote an open letter to media outlets, saying Queen's policy on holding exams in person does not align with their recent response to the presence of Omnicron in the community.
Queen's media relations officer Julie Brown says however that some of the points made in Maclean's letter are factually incorrect, including the assertion that that students need a positive PCR test in order to be exempt.
Some students have already been told that their remaining exams will be deferred as far as February.
A number of students have commented in support of the petition, with one saying Queen's current policy on reporting positive cases actually deters students from feeling comfortable doing so.
"I’ve heard multiple reports of students testing positive with at-home kits but failing to disclose to public health or be tested by KFLA BECAUSE some faculties require that deferred in-person exams be written in August of 2022," the student wrote.
"These are severe consequences for complying with public health and queen’s SHOULD do their part to encourage remove barriers to reporting."
Many Kingston residents have complained in recent weeks that it takes far too long to be able to access a COVID test.
Last night, Queen's University sent out an email to students that included some measures being taken to help address the recent spread.
Student Wellness Services has opened a clinic in the Rose Commons in Mitchell Hall as of today, however the clinic will only be open on weekdays from 9-4 by appointment.
The email also directs students to possible other testing sites like Beechgrove, however that location currently shows zero testing availability during regular assessment hours for the remainder of the month.
Finally Queen's has reverted back to some enhanced safety measures in common spaces like the ARC, and says the "enhanced measures follow a successful fall term with moderate COVID-19 cases amongst the University community", despite several confirmed outbreaks within the Queen's community in recent weeks and 35 confirmed cases just this week linked to the University.
The open letter by Maclean says students who have received responses to their query about moving exams online have been told the process would be too expensive.
"It should be alarming to all students and their families to hear that financial considerations are more important to Queen’s than the health of their students and their communities," Maclean says in the letter.
Media relations officer Julie Brown says an official statement in response to the concerns is expected some time today.
Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative