A collaboration between the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia has resulted in a petition with more than 2,000 signatures in under a week, calling for the government of B.C. to create stronger campus COVID-19 mandates.
Faculty, staff and students from post-secondary schools across B.C. are asking Premier John Horgan, Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix to implement a vaccination and masking mandate across their campuses. Universities in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario – including Queens University and the University of Toronto – recently put identical mandates in place but have the autonomy necessary from their provincial governments.
“With the return to campus being just three weeks away, we need our institutions of higher learning to follow the science and implement vaccine and masking requirements on campus,” said Lynne Marks, president of the University of Victoria Faculty Association.
The province’s current return to campus guidelines encourage what UVic’s Faculty Association considers a “return to most pre-pandemic practises.” After mandatory daily self-health checks, the guidelines only recommend masks for students or staff and makes no mention of vaccines beyond informing of their availability for everyone aged 12 and older. COVID-19 safety plans are no longer required.
“Faculty have been concerned with this approach for months, but that concern has escalated with the Delta variant surging, posing a risk in crowded post-secondary spaces to faculty, staff, students and their families,” reads the faculty association’s release.
Marks said the association agrees that a return to in-person instruction is vital for the success and mental health of post-secondary students. “But the government may be assuming that if case counts get too high in the fall, post-secondary institutions can just return to online teaching,” he said. “That would demonstrate a failure of government and create a totally preventable situation, causing chaos, distress and overwork for students and instructors alike … mandatory masking and vaccinations (with rapid testing for those with vaccination exemptions) could prevent this.”
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