FSU adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ANGELA MCINNES
The Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) is open to serve students, both in person and online.

The Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) is preparing to adapt several of its key resources as students return for an unconventional school year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that most resources and events provided by the FSU will move online. Services including mental health services will now be delivered in a virtual manner.

FSU President Katyayini Thakur said that virtual outreach has helped the FSU connect with more students than usual.

The Fanshawe College Student Services and Here For You logos are shown. A young woman is shown sitting at a desk. Text states: Supoort comes in many forms. Experience flexible services that support you where you are. myfanshawe.ca/hereforyou

“What we’re seeing currently with us shifting to a virtual format, is that student engagement has only increased,” said Thakur. “It really has increased compared to before.”

The virtual format will also allow the FSU to conduct even more events than last year, including some in-person events beginning Sept. 21.

In terms of accessing mental health resources, Thakur said that counselling sessions will now be conducted virtually or over the phone.

“All services are the same, just offered in a virtual way,” she said. She added that she’s confident that the virtual format will be sufficient for students seeking help, stating that they are still constantly available to students. A mental health awareness week is in the works for Sept., though it will also be delivered in a virtual manner.

Originally, fully online students were not charged an ancillary fee for a bus pass, but after a strong response from students, the FSU made the decision to allow online students the opportunity to purchase a bus pass for the academic year.

“After tons of hours of meetings [with the LTC], we were able to make it happen,” said Thakur. “Fully online students will just be able to purchase a bus pass for $264 that’s valid for 12 months.”

Students can purchase a bus pass at any time and it will be effective until Aug. 31 of 2021.

The new school year is also seeing new challenges for international students. The FSU, along with International Services has been reaching out to incoming students via webinars and emails for months.

“We hosted a session specifically and especially for them, so that they don’t feel isolated, even though they are in isolation at this moment,” said Thakur. Many international students have already arrived in Canada and are currently quarantining. “We think it’s very important for us to reach out to them.”

In an effort to connect international students with the FSU, all textbooks purchased will include a card with a letter from President Thakur, referring them to all of the FSU’s social media channels. She added that the emphasis on virtual outreach has also been more effective among international students compared to other years.

“They don’t really have an idea coming in from a different country, and they’re not going to be able to interact with us in person as of now,” she said. “But they really are starting to connect with us and I think international engagement has been even higher than domestic.”

The FSU will also continue to offer various campus events and provide students with many engaging activities. Beginning Sept. 21, in person activities will be offered starting with a Resident Pizza Party and fireworks display. In accordance with COVID-19 public health guidelines, gatherings will be limited to 50 people, with social distancing in effect. Thakur said sanitization will also be provided.

Other events throughout Sept. will include a blend of in-person attendance and live online broadcasting. Acoustic Afternoons on Thursdays, for example, will allow for 50 people in attendance, but will be streamed for free online.

Finally, to close out the month, the FSU will be holding a blanket drive-in movie on Sept. 30 in Merlin Field.

For students seeking food on campus, Oasis and Booster Juice will both fully reopen on Sept. 5, with The Out Back Shack joining them on Sept. 21.

Thakur and the FSU want students to know that the same services they need will continue to be available to them, just in new ways.

“I think we’ve done a really commendable job,” said Thakur. “We’re really excited.”