The Guelph-Humber media cage has implemented new COVID-19 restrictions for renting equipment, causing some students in the media studies program added anxiety. 


The media cage is a booth on the second floor that loans equipment to media students to use for assignments and practice. It has everything from DSLRs to microphones. 


In the past, students could walk up to the cage and ask for a piece of equipment when they needed it. Once a student card was shown and a signature was given, the equipment was handed out. Students were allowed to sign out a piece of equipment for 24 hours with the ability to renew for another 24 hours. 


Now students are only allowed to use equipment on campus with some exceptions. “It has personally affected me negatively because of the time crunch that I have been made to endure, and the extra pressures of managing when and how I can use all of the equipment needed,” said third year media studies visual communications student Holly Villarroel.


The school is using a new online booking system called web checkout which allows all media studies students to go online and see all the equipment that’s available to them and at what time. 


As it stands now, equipment can only be taken home under specific circumstances. “For radio broadcasting we have purchased additional audio recorders to allow students to sign them out for almost a semester basis,” said Guelph-Humber media technologies specialist Marc Tavares. 


The school is trying its best to accommodate as many students as possible by buying extra equipment this year. “For cameras, we did buy additional 25 Nikon DSLRs to help accommodate,” said Guelph-Humber media technologies specialist Michael Samartzis. There were 32 cameras last year plus an additional 25 purchased this year for a total of 57 cameras available primarily for first year photography students.


Even with these changes, there is still less time to use equipment and get assignments done. The reduced time on campus also means students have less time to use studio equipment. The school has no plans to buy more because it’s just too expensive. “A studio lighting kit costs about $12,000. So it’s not as simple as saying you know what let’s just buy a ton of them so each student can sign it out and hang on to it,” said Tavares.


The program head of media studies, Kathy Ullyott, says there is virtual help for keeping up with the workload. “Student life is offering rolling consultant services on time management,” said Ullyott. 


Even with the extra help, students like Villarroel are still feeling stressed. Samartszis thinks that as students use the equipment more, they will get better at using it and finish assignments faster. “Whereas now it’s taking them a lot longer and again that’s just a part of the learning curve of learning your tools,” said the media technologies specialist.


Samartzis also said that he and a part-time worker, who is a graduate of the program, are present during the labs on campus, so that any students with questions or technical issues are able to get help as soon as possible.


The number of labs has been reduced for the winter semester due to COVID-19. Because of this the university is going to open up the cage for an additional two to three windows a week which will allow students to access equipment outside of class time.


Ullyott is aware of the struggles with signing out equipment and wants to help. She has organized a virtual town hall meeting to review media cage issues on Thursday Nov. 12, which will be recorded.


Samartzis agrees that could help. “It would give us a good opportunity to remind students that our whole team is an email away. If there are any issues, we can set up a time to figure it out either on location or online,” said Samartzis.