Adjusting to post-COVID life on-campus is leaving many students feeling lonely and isolated, despite the best efforts of universities to infuse more social behavior, including activities in dining halls.
The survey of more than 100 Simon Fraser University (SFU) students conducted in March-April, 2023 found that roughly ¾ of students felt lonely. The survey was held in conjunction with the SHURE-Initiative, with results presented at SHURE-Vancouver on April 19.
Specifically, students were asked the following question:
COVID was a challenging period of loneliness and isolation for many students. The university is taking steps to get us to socialize again, including dining. Do students feel they are lonely-on campus in the midst of changes to encourage in-person dining and sociability?
The results, presented at SHURE-Vancouver on April 19 alarmed many in the audience:
* 52% of students said ‘yes’ to continuing to feel lonely on campus;
* 22% answered ‘maybe’;
* 27% answered ‘no’
In the panel session at SHURE-Vancouver to analyze the results, Alex Jones, who works in Business Development at Heritage Office acknowledged the transition to post-COVID life on-campus has been challenging.
“I know the feedback that I got from my clients at University of British Columbia was that virtual was not working. So now that the students are here, they’ve been through this pandemic, and it was traumatic, and I can’t imagine what it’s like being a teenager.”
Emmanuel Adegboyega, a student at SFU who participated in the survey said the results are very clear. “The survey tells us that students still feel very lonely post-pandemic, even while on campus. I think there are many reasons for that. There is more that needs to be done for students to feel more sociable.”
Adegboyega said the current plan to infuse social behavior is not working. “Beyond just making in-person spaces, there must be several other changes. And this is where student consultation becomes very important.”
Josh Morton, Vice President of Campus Suites, a Canadian-based student housing operator and manger, noted that there were two major changes that took hold during COVID involving food delivery and shopping that have led to new social patterns. Morton said that students ordered-out for food delivery in big numbers during COVID, a trend that has carried over.
“During COVID, students got very comfortable eating by themselves, eating at home. And, and it’s one of those things where, you know, at least I could speak to when I was in university, that was kind of a place where we all congregated,” said Morton. “Students would talk and collaborate over meals, but that’s just something that doesn’t quite happen on the same level anymore.”
The other major change on-campus, according to Morton, involves shopping patterns.
“Very few people go out shopping anymore. A lot more people are getting their parcels delivered and that in-person experience where you go to brick and mortar is not something that people do as much anymore. You go to Amazon, you can get everything delivered next day and it’s an impersonal solution.”