Teddie Briggs says she was “beyond frustrated” after learning Red Deer College’s social work program continues to require students to have dozens of hours in volunteer experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The single mother with underlying health conditions was hoping to enrol in the program this year, but has since decided against it due to these requirement during the application process.
“I started raising concerns with RDC … and then when the active cases really started taking off, I became more vocal about it,” said Briggs.
“Why should I be academically punished? In the workplace we have a right to refuse unsafe work. Does that stand anywhere academically for students?”
Briggs said she is “beyond frustrated and disgusted” with the institution, which she no longer plans on attending.
“Do they realize what they are asking morally and ethically in the middle of a pandemic?” Briggs asked.
“Is RDC going to pay for my funeral expenses or my hospital bills?”
Kylie Thomas, academic and research vice-president at RDC, said typically applicants are required to have completed 100 hours of volunteer or work hours in a human service, social service or health care environment. But this isn’t a typical year.
“These hours normally need to have been started within the last year, though they do not need to have been completed before the applicant is interviewed for admission to the program. Due to the pandemic, the social work program adjusted this to 70 hours within the last three years and the hours can now be with more than one organization,” said Thomas.
“RDC has worked to adjust our volunteer requirements in recognition of the unique situation the pandemic presents, while still maintaining the rigor and allowing applicants to demonstrate their dedication to the social work program and to future careers as social workers.”
Thomas said options for online and remote volunteer hour have been discussed with potential applicants.
Briggs said she reached out to a number of organizations in the community and was unable to find online or remote volunteer opportunities.
“I understand that there are no restrictions from the Alberta government about going out and volunteering but … you’re not supposed to be going out there and making more connections in the community. That kind of goes against common sense right now,” said Briggs.