Another form of school caution during the pandemic

This semester almost all of my university’s classes are online. Because of that, students can participate in Kwantlen courses – indeed, courses at any British Columbia university – from anywhere in the world. This distressing caution comes from The Tyee:

Some University of British Columbia students starting online studies next week will see a new kind of disclaimer on course outlines — this course could be illegal and even dangerous to access, depending on where you are. …

“Some UBC courses might cover topics that are censored or considered illegal by non-Canadian governments,” [wrote] Andrew Szeri, UBC’s vice-president academic. “This may include … human rights, representative government, defamation, obscenity, gender or sexuality, and historical or current geopolitical controversies.”

While UBC is “strongly committed to academic freedom” it has no sway over international governments, the warning says, and students should “exercise caution” when choosing courses this semester.

The letter also includes a warning for students. “Students should be mindful that when they partake in class discussions or communicate to the members of the class, that for some students living abroad, sensitive material might result in repercussions,” it cautions. …

“I think the university is trying to help students be alerted to the possibilities and make sure that they’re cautious if they’re in a place where some subjects may not be OK to study,” she said, “and that, that might actually mean they want to think about postponing a course.”

In the letter to faculty, the university said it is working to broaden the acceptable reasons for dropping a course without academic penalty to ensure students are not forced to choose between a course they need to graduate and their personal safety.

Good mental hygiene requires that we explore worst-case scenarios. I teach that in all of my classes.

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