ANTIGONISH: While most post-secondary institutions will be taught virtually this fall semester, StFX University welcomed back their students to in-person classes on September 14.
“I am so impressed by the collaboration and commitment to providing a successful university experience despite the numerous challenges that we are all facing,” said new StFX president Dr. Andrew Hakin. “Celebrating the Xaverian pride and resilience with the entire community is especially meaningful this year.”
After months of planning, Hakin indicates his presidential transition has been far from ordinary, however he, the university, and the student body have been adapting relatively well to the required changes due to COVID-19.
Hakin, who arrived in Antigonish in July, said the enthusiasm for classes has been building ever since students first started arriving back on campus the last week of August to begin their required self-isolation.
He said he’s already learned quickly over the school’s 167-year history their relationship with the community in which it serves has been a critical pillar of their success and Antigonish and the surrounding community are at the very heart of a StFX education.
“There’s a lot of optimism, a lot of enthusiasm; at the same time, there’s some caution on campus as to how we’re going [to] proceed,” he said. “But there’s a good feel – a very good feel and things being to feel normal when you have students back on campus.”
The typical provincial physical distancing protocols and gathering restrictions are in place at StFX, and the entire campus is a “mask-on” zone.
Hakin suggested he’s been satisfied with how the approximately 1,250 students who have been required to self-isolate in the town have acted and followed rules, but acknowledged the individuals who chose to disregard the provincial health requirements – the university was taking their choices very seriously.
Those students who were required to self-isolate off-campus have been supported by 220 volunteers, who had been in constant contact with them during the duration of their mandatory 14-day isolation period.
Since students first started to arrive back in Antigonish, four from outside the Atlantic Bubble have been found to be in violation of the Health Protection Act, all have been fined the maximum of $1,000 by the RCMP and face further disciplinary action from university officials.
The local RCMP, who had received multiple complaints as students began their move back to town, had also been actively conducting random check-ins on students who were required and supposed to be in self-isolation.
“Those [students] will also be subject to the non-academic offenses policy of the university, and that process is currently underway,” Hakin said. “There’s a whole process and policy in place to deal with that, so there will be internal sanctions as well.”
The action of these four individuals, he said underlines how the university has been working with the Antigonish community in collaborating to highlight incidents that are not favourable to the town.