TORONTO — Back in early March, as Ontario’s colleges and universities scrambled to prepare for government shut-down orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ilene Sova packed up as many art supplies as she could in anticipation of the months of isolation that would follow.
Sova, an instructor at OCAD University in Toronto, said art was her only remedy as the world became more distant and uncertain times emerged.
She would later turn her home office into a makeshift art studio and begin her creative process, but one thing she could not shake off was the thought of her students going through similar emotions.
“While I was making collages one day in early April, I realized that our students might also want to make art about this unprecedented time, and may also benefit from responding creatively,” Sova said in an interview.
That’s when the idea to create a course in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic was born, and Sova approached the school with her plans.
The course, titled “COVID-19 Responsive Art,” will prompt students to look into their own artwork in response to how the pandemic is affecting their personal lives — and explore how historical and contemporary artists have responded to similar crises in the past.
“My own experience tells me that making art during this time and expressing myself is extremely healing,” said Sova. “Finding commonalities in this class and hearing each other’s stories will be so invaluable in easing the dark times that they are facing together.”
Sova is among many Ontario university instructors gearing up to offer students courses revolving around the COVID-19 pandemic this upcoming school year.
Nathalie Desrosiers, president of the University of Toronto’s Massey College, said in the fall she will be teaching “The Law of Pandemics” to a fourth-year seminar class.
Students will have the opportunity to look at the many consequences that have been highlighted in society due to the pandemic, Desrosiers said.
“We look at the different impacts of the pandemic on different groups in racialized communities, women, people with disabilities,” she said. “The end goal is for students to use the pandemic and their own experience to explore what are the consequences to the legal system.”
Padmaja Rengamannar, a third-year journalism and political science student at U of T, said it amazed her how she was able to learn about a time that will “undoubtedly be recorded in historical documents” while taking online courses this summer on the implications of the pandemic on international law.
“We discussed the lack of accountability from several nations with regards to mishandling the virus and the lack of enforcement to hold such nations responsible,” Rengamannar said. “The lecture made me think about the different actors, like states and their governing leaders, involved in the pandemic.”
Olabanji Akinola, assistant professor of political science at Algoma University, said he is teaching a course called “Law and Politics of the COVID Pandemic” that will examine the legal and political aspects of the health crisis.
“Students will be able to learn about … the various legal and political frameworks and governance systems for dealing with the pandemic, the history of pandemics generally and COVID in particular,” Akinola said.
Ahmad Firas Khalid, political science instructor at McMaster University, said he is teaching a course called “Politics of Pandemics” where students can expect to learn about the impact and influence of global health governance.
“Students will come to understand the types of decisions that can have an impact on health, the roles of different organizations involved in making these decisions, and the types of influences on these decisions,” he said.