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Female students dread return to Burnaby classes due to ‘creepy stalkers’

Some students prefer online classes to stay away from male students
A woman walks along a path at the Simon Fraser University campus on Burnaby Mountain. (via Burnaby Now)

Simon Fraser University is taking a lot of criticism for its return to in-person instruction on Monday, but there are a few students dreading it for a different reason.

While a petition was started to protest the return due to risks from COVID-19, several women who attend SFU say they have preferred online instruction because they feel safer than taking part in in-person classes.

Safer because they don’t have to deal with “creepy stalkers” who constantly cross the line, but not far enough to be punished by the school.

“I thought going back to classes in the fall would feel good, but it didn’t take long to really hate it compared to online classes,” said Sarah, who spoke with the NOW under the condition that her real name wasn’t used. “There are a lot of creeps on campus who probably just moved out of their parents’ house and have no ability to be around women. They get too close, follow you, make creepy comments, stare. You tell them to stop and to go away but they think that’s some kind of game of playing ‘hard to get’ and it’s exhausting.”

Sarah and her friend met with the NOW recently to discuss the situation, saying that they’ve spoken with school officials but have been told the actions don’t qualify as a breach of the code of conduct.

“I’m literally losing sleep the closer we get to Monday,” said the other student. “I just want to focus on my school work but it’s so hard. These guys think it’s funny or cute or they’re just so lonely and underdeveloped emotionally that they think they have some sort of right to act like this. It’s just so constant.”

SFU doesn’t appear to be changing its mind about a return to in-person classes.

The Simon Fraser University Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance is speaking out about the decision, calling the move "irresponsible.”

On Dec. 23, following many other universities, SFU announced a temporary two-week shift to remote learning from Jan. 10 to 23. 

The extremely transmissible Omicron variant was the driving factor for institutions to move to online learning while B.C. saw record-breaking daily case counts and record hospitalizations.

"SFU has had a very safe and successful return to campus," the school said in a statement on Dec. 23. 

"Safety remains our top priority, and includes the mental health and wellness of our students, faculty and staff. 

"This brief shift to some of our learning and teaching will provide time to learn more about the situation and consider additional tools to support a full in-person return."

With Jan. 24 quickly approaching, the disability and neurodiversity alliance says the plan is ill-advised and deeply ableist towards members of the SFU community that have additional risk factors for the virus. 

"We believe that this plan is not only ill-advised but deeply ableist and ageist towards those members of the SFU community who have additional risk factors for COVID-19," the statement released on Jan. 17 states.

"No one is free from the risk of COVID-19, even the Omicron variant. While initial reports suggest that the Omicron variant is milder than past variants of COVID, that does not make it a mild condition

"It is a far more transmissible variant, making it extremely dangerous to those who are at high risk from COVID. Those members of our community who are immunocompromised, have pre-existing health conditions or are older should not have to decide between their lives and their education."

  • With additional reporting by Jess Balzer

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.