Friday, August 20, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Good morning, and TGIF!
I suppose it’s appropriate that today is World Mosquito Day, since we’re talking about an absolute SWARM of injection policies across CdnPSE. On Aug 6, before I stepped away for a brief vacation, I told you the Vaccine Writing was on the Wall – but little did I realize there would be an absolute DELUGE of some 450 announcements, objections, and stories in my notes when I came to update you today!
I’ve been working around the clock for 3 days to try to distill this – so I apologize in advance that I haven’t had time to streamline or abbreviate much of it, and that I have doubtless missed some new announcements from the past few hours. At this point, I felt it was important to share what I have gathered before the weekend, for those of you still trying to grasp the trends. Sorry that it’s a triple-issue!
Overall, I’d say “the inevitable” is cascading across CdnPSE campuses like dominoes – just as COVID19 measures spread in the spring of 2020, and again in the Fall of 2020. As you know, I’m not an epidemiologist nor a lawyer, but observing the trends in painstaking detail for the past 19 months has certainly given me “déjà vu all over again.” Institutions attempting a return to campus, while resisting a vax requirement of some kind, are playing a game of “COVID19 chicken” with the virus, and will wind up backpedalling – or worse – in the next 8 weeks…
If you want the blow-by-blow details since March, you can of course consult the Insider Recap on Vaccination Policies, but here’s a quick summary of how we got here…
American campuses have been leading the way with early announcements of vax mandates. The first (I think) was Rutgers in late March, and now 741 US institutions have followed suit (including every one of the top 25). The ACHA recommended vax mandates to all PSEs a month later. In Canada, there was plenty of denial and waffling early on, prompting the uSask Faculty Association to push for a mandate at the beginning of May, but the request fell on deaf ears. Most CdnPSEs opted to “encourage” or even “urge” vaccination, hosted vaccine clinics on campus, launched vax awareness campaigns on social media, or even held contests with prize incentives to encourage vaccination (led by uLethbridge and Assiniboine CC in early May). I admit, it was surprising to see CdnPSE lagging their US counterparts so much, when our political climate here was considerably less explosive and our socialized attitudes to healthcare made the case so much easier…
What was not so surprising was to see Western U lead the way May 27, announcing a vaccine requirement for students entering residence this Fall. (You may recall from my COVID19 tracking sheet that Western was publicly hit hard in 2020-21 with at least 377 infections on campus, and outbreaks in virtually all its residence halls.) I am still quite surprised we didn’t immediately see Western followed by other hard-hit ONpses Queen’s (253+), uToronto (150+), and uWaterloo (104+). Instead, the next schools to announce were Trent, Fanshawe, and – almost 2 weeks later – uToronto and then Ryerson. In early June, institutions like McMaster and Brockwere still emphatic that they would NOT require vaccinations, even in residence, but by month-end residence mandates were unveiled across the GTA at Durham, Ontario Tech, and York, and in Peterborough at Fleming College (following Trent’s lead, and still smarting from a deadly off-campus outbreak among students). Later in July, residence mandates were also announced at uOttawa, and Cape Breton U, and in the final days of the month at Brock, Conestoga, George Brown, uGuelph, Lambton, Laurier, Mohawk, Sault, and uWaterloo (as regional PHOs started to encourage it). Remarkably, it took several more weeks for Cambrian, Canadore, and Georgian to join them.
In late July, OUA Athletics apparently started encouraging mandatory vaccination for varsity athletes, to help ensure the league schedules could proceed as planned for the Fall. Vax mandates were extended to include varsity athletes at George Brown, Sault College, Brock, Conestoga, uGuelph, Laurier, uOttawa, and Sheridan.
The next (likely inevitable) step beyond mandates in residence and varsity athletics involves other “high-risk” activities on campus, from intramural sports and indoor recreation to music performance instruction or educational placements. On Jul 29, uToronto extended its residence vax requirement to students, staff, faculty and librarians engaged in high-risk activities. On Aug 5, Carleton U extended its residence mandate to varsity and club athletes and students in music performance instruction, while also noting that the list of high-risk activities might further evolve.
Pushing for Workplace Safety
Throughout the summer, faculty associations and outspoken profs across the country have been following the early lead of their peers at uSask, pushing for vaccines to be mandatory for students in their classrooms this Fall. The UWOFA started pushing for a campuswide mandate in late July to ensure a safe work environment, but Western president Alan Shepard insisted the residence requirement was “as far as it can go, legally.” The UBC Alma Mater Society added their voice Jul 23, backed with the results of a campus survey, but the UBC FA refused to support them on ethical grounds. Profs from Western and uOttawa wrote in Maclean’s that CdnPSE was “failing science.” Profs at Western warned in the Globe & Mail that “without mandatory vaccines, more campus shutdowns are inevitable” and “guarantee” a return to online teaching. Earlier this month, some Western profs publicly threatened they would not return to class, and BC’s “Return to Campus” plan was targeted by SFU staff and faculty, the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC, and the SFU Teaching Support Staff Union.
“Hundreds of post-secondary institutions in the US and elsewhere in the world have made the decision to follow the scientific advice.” – Adrian Owen, Neuroscientist, Schulich School of Medicine, Western U
“All the Canadian institutions that are requiring no vaccination, or half-vaccination, are so scientifically lost at sea that they cannot teach health promotion or medical ethics without farcically conceding their own misconduct.” – Amir Attaran (uOttawa) and Jacob Shelley (Western U), in Maclean’s
On Jun 18, Seneca College surprised the rest of CdnPSE by declaring vaccines mandatory for all students and employees coming to campus after Sep 7. (Kudos to president David Agnew for this brave, even prescient, announcement, made early enough that the campus community could adequately prepare for the Fall.) A full month later on Jul 20, Confederation College president Kathleen Lynch appeared to follow suit, but clarified that while students and staff were “expected” to be fully vaxxed, this was not a “requirement.” On Jul 29, uToronto announced that it will require “self-declaration” of vax status by “all community members” and will provide rapid screening kits to the unvaxxed twice a week. And on Aug 5, Carleton followed suit, indicating that all students, faculty and staff will be required to self-declare their vax status.
That sums up 5 months’ worth of vaccine mandate debate and announcements in CdnPSE. But that’s nothing compared to the past 2 weeks…
(Remind me never to take a vacation in a pandemic, huh?) Since my last summary on Aug 6, I’ve collected 450 announcements and news items about vax mandates in CdnPSE. In just 2 weeks, we’ve gone from 29 to almost 80 institutions announcing mandatory vaccine policies of one kind or another!
Some ONpses have come late to the party, as it were, only announcing recently vax mandates for students in residence (such as Georgian, Lakehead, Sault, St Clair, Laurentian, Canadore) or those participating in varsity athletics (including Western, Fanshawe, Ontario Tech, Sault, St Clair, Laurentian, Laurier, Conestoga, Niagara College, uWindsor).
Collective ONpse Request
While premier Doug Ford is clearly opposed to vaccine passports and mandates, on Aug 6 Ontario’s public colleges and universities collectively urged the government to impose a province-wide mandatory vaccine policy on their campuses, and adopt the “COVID Safe Pass” system advocated by the Toronto Board of Trade and other business groups. “We know that ensuring high rates of vaccination will be essential to protect public health and reopening the economy – including our campuses – this fall.” (The Ontario Undergraduate Students Association tweeted their support too.) Council of Ontario Universities
Clearly, ONpse was not prepared to wait for the province, and took matters into their own hands…
Blanket Mandates in Ontario
In the past 2 weeks, 37 more ONpses have joined Seneca in announcing a blanket requirement that all students, staff and faculty must self-declare their vax status to come to campus this Fall – often contradicting their previous announcements…
uWaterloo announced Aug 9 that employees and students will have to “anonymously self-declare” their vax status in order to obtain access to campus buildings starting Sep 1, and that the institution supports advocacy efforts urging mandatory vaccination across the ONpse sector. Those who answer “no” to the campus check-in will be provided with information about vaccination, booking appointments, and rapid antigen screening, and they “will be expected to participate in screening twice a week.” Anyone who tests positive will have to self-isolate. (On Aug 16, UW clarified that anyone entering campus after Sep 1 must consent to showing proof of their vax status or test results at any time if it is required.) Some faculty critics object that the measure doesn’t go as far as a vaccine mandate. UW | CTV News | Global News | CBC
uOttawa announced on Aug 10 that vaccination will be mandatory for anyone on campus as of Sep 7: “The risks posed by the pandemic are clear, and the path to staying safe, ever clearer.” Self-attestations will be required of all community members returning to campus starting Sep 1, and 2-dose coverage will be mandatory by Oct 15. Those who aren’t vaccinated will be subject to frequent testing, mask and PPE requirements. Masking and physical distancing remain in effect on campus, since vaccinations aren’t 100% effective. uOttawa | uOttawa News | Ottawa Citizen | Global News | CBC | CTV News
“We know that this pandemic right now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and that means the university population is ripe to be a hot zone for outbreaks… So how do we avoid that? You get them all vaccinated.” – Raywat Deonandan, Epidemiologist, uOttawa
Then 3 more announcements came Aug 11…
Western and its affiliated colleges (Brescia, Huron, and King’s) announced a requirement to provide proof of vaccination, or be tested twice weekly. (Those in residence, or involved in work placements, music, or varsity athletics have no alternative other than being vaxxed.) Masks will also be mandatory indoors. The announcement followed a massive lobbying effort by campus unions. Western was the first CdnPSE to make vaccines mandatory in residence, back in a May announcement. Western bioethicist Maxwell Smith points out that the policy is not so much a mandate as a choice: people can WFH, study online, go to another institution, delay their education, or undergo twice weekly testing. And, of course, exceptions will be provided on grounds protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code. UWO | CBC | London Free Press | The Gazette
“PSE has the potential to be a major driver of COVID cases and pandemic waves… to see Western come down on the right side of history by doing whatever they can to prevent spread in PSE students, it’s a tremendous win for our community.” – Chris Mackie, MOH, Middlesex-London Health Unit
uToronto announced a requirement to self-declare vax status before coming to its campuses this Fall back on Jul 29, but the emphasis was on students in residence, athletics and other “high-risk” activities. As other ONpses adopted similar requirements, president Meric Gertler clarified on Aug 11 that UofT will requireanyone intending to be present on campus to be fully vaccinated against COVID19. All others must take at-home rapid-screening tests twice a week, and produce a negative result within 72 hours of heading to campus – along with “additional public health measures.” (As the Toronto Star succinctly put it: “get the jab or get tested.”) Students in music, varsity athletics, and other high-risk activities will have no alternative to vaccination, and will have to upload documentary proof. Prof Salvatore Spadafora explains, “the public health evidence is clear: vaccination provides the best protection from COVID19.” But the policy emphasized self-attestation without a requirement that vax documentation be provided as proof, disappointing the UTFA who called it “inadequate” and “misleading.” (Some faculty called it “smoke and mirrors.”) The CFS and OCUFA urged the province to implement a provincewide PSE vax mandate. UofT News | Toronto Star | Global News | CP24 | The Varsity | CBC | 680 News
“Without proof, it’s not a requirement. UofT should be ashamed of its propaganda campaign.”– Patrick Kielty, Assoc Prof, Faculty of Information, uToronto
uGuelph announced a vaccination requirement for students, faculty and staff throughout the 2021-22 academic year at its campuses and indoor field stations. (An online petition had gathered 1,400 signatories at the time.) The decision was made with “strong support” from the local PHOs, and president Charlotte Yates observes that operationalizing the mandate “will require widespread institutional consultation and action.” In a town hall Aug 12, she added that “we are not going to become a carding campus,” with TAs and profs enforcing vaccine requirements; an easier mechanism would be a provincial or national vaccine passport. uGuelph | CBC | Global News | CTV News | Toronto Star
“As an institution of higher learning and a leader in life sciences, the University is committed to evidence and research-informed decision making. We are fortunate to be able to leverage the expertise of world-renowned scholars who have been shaping our institutional response to the pandemic since the beginning… We have responded to every challenge we faced in the last year and a half with compassion, flexibility and an unwavering dedication to our mission to Improve Life.” – Charlotte Yates, President, uGuelph
The Floodgates Open
By Aug 12, the ONpse announcements were coming fast and furious…
Brock U announced (in an “about-face”) Aug 12 that it will require at least a first dose of a HC or WHO-approved vaccine for access to campus starting Sep 7, and a 2nd dose by Oct 15. Community members will be required to attest to their vax status, and “be prepared to furnish proof of vaccination.” The unvaxxed will be subject to “screening and frequent testing.” The BUFA says it had been lobbying for a vax mandate for some time, and had 300 signatures on a petition. Brock News | Niagara Falls Review
Carleton U extended its vax mandate on Aug 12 from “high-risk” activities to all students, faculty and staff returning to campus, just one week later. Attestation will be mandatory, and the unvaxxed will need to pass a rapid test to gain temporary access to campus. All in-person classes will have mask and social distancing requirements, and class caps of 60 students. Carleton | The Charlatan | Global News | Ottawa Citizen
Fleming College announced Aug 13 that everyone will require a 1st dose of a HC/WHO-approved vaccine by Sep 7, and a 2nd dose by Oct 20, in order to access programs and activities on campus. Otherwise, regular testing will be required. Fleming | Global News | Education News Canada
Georgian College announced Aug 13 that vaccinations will be mandatory for all students and employees on campus as of Sep 7. All should have their 1st dose of a HC/WHO-approved vaccine by Sep 7, and a 2nd dose by Oct 18. Global News | Education News Canada
OCAD U president Ana Serrano announced Aug 12 that students, faculty and staff will be required to self-declare their vax status before they can participate in any activity on campus. A rapid screening program will be required for the unvaxxed. Everyone on campus this Fall will be “either fully (or on the path to becoming fully) vaccinated,” or will be tested weekly. OCADU
Ontario Tech U announced Aug 12 that COVID19 vaccinations will be mandatory for anyone coming to campus, effective Sep 3. People will have until Oct 17 to get their second dose, if necessary. Documentary proof of vaccination will be uploaded through a mobile app. Unvaxxed, non-exempt students will have the option to study online. ONTech | Education News Canada | CTV News
Queen’s U announced Aug 12 (after numerous refusals) that it will require all students, staff and faculty returning to campus to be fully vaccinated, “or have a plan to do so,” by Sep 7. Those who are not fully vaxxed will be required to undertake “additional health and safety protocols and COVID19 testing” as recommended by the PHO. Moreover, in the event of an outbreak, unvaxxed students in residence may be moved to an “isolation space.” Queen’s Gazette | Kingston Whig-Standard | CTV News | Global News
Ryerson U announced on Aug 13 a blanket vaccine requirement to access campus as of Sep 7. Those who do not attest to being fully vaxxed will need to be tested before coming to campus. Students in residence and competitive or varsity athletics will still be required to be fully vaccinated. “As part of our preparations for the winter term and an anticipated full return to campus in January, the university will be working to include requiring proof of vaccination in order to come to campus.” Masking, social distancing, enhanced cleaning and HVAC will remain in place. Ryerson | CityNews
St Clair College announced Aug 17 that all staff, faculty, students, contractors and campus visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated this Fall, starting Sep 7. They will be required to provide proof of a 2nd dose “within the required minimum period.” Education News Canada | CBC | Windsor Star
St Lawrence College announced Aug 12 that students, employees, visitors and contractors will be required to have full COVID19 vaccinations to come to campus this fall. First doses are expected by Sep 7. (This made SLC the second college in Ontario, after Seneca, to institute a vaccine mandate.) SLC | Kingston Whig-Standard | CTV News | Education News Canada
Wilfrid Laurier U announced Aug 12 that members of the campus community will need to confirm their vaccination status prior to attending campus as of Sep 7. Those who are not fully vaxxed must receive a negative COVID19 test prior to coming to campus, and commit to regular testing. Brantford Expositor | Waterloo Record | CBC | CTV News | Global News
York U announced Aug 12 that all community members and campus visitors will be required to be vaccinated against COVID19, “subject to medical and human rights exemptions, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.” York | Education News Canada
More ONpse announcements continued this week…
Collège Boréal announced Aug 16 that proof of full vaccination will be mandatory for access to any of its campuses across Ontario this September. At least 1 dose of a HC-approved vaccine will be required by Sep 7, and 2 doses will be required by Oct 4. After Oct 4, the unvaxxed will be subject to testing and screening. Mask and physical distancing requirements will remain in force. Boréal | CBC | Education News Canada | Sudbury Star | Sudbury.com
Confederation College announced Aug 16 that it will require all members of the community to be fully vaccinated to access its campuses this Fall, as of Sep 7. Those with a single dose of a HC/WHO approved vaccine will be provided a “grace period” to obtain their 2nd dose until Oct 18. Details of attestations and alternatives to vaccination were still being determined, with just “a couple of weeks left until our semester starts.” Confederation | CBC
Laurentian U announced Aug 16 (just a week after its residence and athletics announcements) that allpersons attending campus will be required to be vaccinated against COVID19 as of Sep 8, at the recommendation of the local PHO. The unvaxxed “will be subject to measures such as testing and screening.” Face mask requirements, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning will continue. Education News Canada | Laurentian | Sudbury.com | Sudbury Star
Mohawk College announced Aug 16 that the residence and athletics mandate would be expanded to all employees, students, contractors and visitors attending Mohawk facilities, starting Sep 7. Individuals will need to confirm that they have at least 1 dose of a HC/WHO approved vaccine, and the 2nd dose should be received by Oct 15, “with proof of full vaccination required” by Oct 30. Social distancing and mask requirements remain in place. Those with approved exemptions will be required to be tested regularly and demonstrate a negative test result to enter campus. Mohawk | CBC | Education News Canada | CHCH
McMaster U announced Aug 16 that it will require people to upload proof that they’re either fully vaccinated or exempted on human rights grounds, before they may enter campus starting Sep 7. Between Sep 7 and Oct 18, all others will need to submit proof of a negative COVID19 test twice weekly. After Oct 18, “vaccines or an approved exemption will be needed to attend a McMaster campus or facility.” CBC | McMaster | CHCH
Niagara College announced Aug 16 that anyone coming to campus after Sep 7 will need to provide proof of at least 1 dose of a HC or WHO approved vaccine, and a 2nd dose by Oct 18. Masks, distancing and enhanced cleaning will continue. NC | Global News | CHCH
Nipissing U announced late in the day Aug 16 that anyone coming to campus this Fall will be required to attest to their COVID19 vax status “through a secure portal,” and the unvaxxed must commit to regular testing and produce a negative test result before coming to campus. Students in residence, athletics, or conducting F2F research with human subjects will be required to provide proof of vaccination. Nipissing | North Bay Nugget | Sudbury Star
uWindsor announced Aug 16 that all faculty, staff and students must have a 1st dose by Sep 1 and a 2nd dose by Oct 1 in order to access the campus. The unvaxxed will be subject to regular testing. Mask requirements, physical distancing, capacity limits, daily self-assessments, and hybrid course delivery will continue. uWindsor | Windsor Star
Then the Ontario government itself opened the floodgates still further…
The Ontario Government announced Aug 17 that hospital and home care staff will need to be fully immunized against COVID19 or subject to regular rapid testing. The Ministry of Education will be introducing a vaccination disclosure policy for all publicly-funded school board employees, staff in private schools and in licensed childcare settings for the 2021-22 school year. “Vaccination policies will also be implemented in other high-risk settings such as post-secondary institutions.” CMOH Kieran Moore emphasized that, thanks to the Delta variant, “it’s going to be a difficult fall and winter” as people move indoors and young people gather in classrooms. Liberal, Green, and NDP opposition politicians criticized the move as “half-baked” “half-measures” that do “the bare minimum” to protect Ontarians. ETFO (the elementary teachers’ union) called on the government to go beyond a voluntary disclosure policy, to implement mandatory vaccinations. Ontario | London Free Press | CBC | CTV | Globe & Mail
This reduced the political risk for ONpses, and encouraged more announcements…
Algoma U announced Aug 18 that students will be asked to attest that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID19 when they return to campus in September, and the unvaxxed will be tested “at least weekly.” The university wants students immunized by the second week of October. Sault Star
Algonquin College president Claude Brulé was still confident that infection controls would be adequate, just a week earlier, but on Aug 18 he announced a mandatory vaccination policy for the Fall 2021 term. As of Sep 7, anyone accessing Algonquin campuses will need to show proof of at least 1 dose of COVID19 vaccine, and by Oct 12 proof of 2 doses. Algonquin | CBC | Global News | CTV | Ottawa Citizen
Cambrian College says proof of full vaccination will be mandatory for campus access starting Sep 7. The unvaxxed will be subject to enhanced screening, regular COVID19 testing, and additional health and safety measures after Oct 15. CBC | Sudbury.com
Canadore College announced Aug 19 a blanket requirement of at least one dose of COVID19 vaccine, effective Sep 7. Canadore
Centennial College announced Aug 18 that it will require proof of vaccination for students, employees, visitors and contractors to visit campus. Exempt individuals will be required to participate in “regular, college-facilitated testing.” Centennial strongly urges first doses before Sep 7. Centennial
Conestoga College announced Aug 17 that a vaccine mandate will be implemented on campus by Jan 2022, because it will “take some time” to implement a robust vaccine mandate, and students and employees “need fair notice” to adapt or make alternative arrangements. Conestoga
Durham College announced Aug 17 that all members of the campus community must be fully vaccinated by Oct 17 with a WHO-approved vaccine. Attestations will be required beginning Sep 3. DC | DurhamRegion.com
Lakehead U announced that vaccines will be mandatory to attend school properties, with a 1st dose required by Sep 7 and a 2nd by Oct 7. Global News
Lambton College announced Aug 18 it will require proof of vaccination for campus access for all students, employees and guests beginning Aug 31. A first dose of a HC approved vaccine is required by Aug 31, and a 2nd dose by Oct 11. Education News Canada | London Free Press | Global News
Loyalist College announced Aug 17 that anyone coming to campus must have received at least 1 dose of a HC-approved COVID19 vaccine by Sep 7, and be fully vaxxed by Nov 1. The unvaxxed must produce a negative result from a rapid test to gain access to campus. All individuals must wear masks, regardless of vax status. Loyalist
Sheridan College announced Aug 17 that it will require everyone who comes to campus to demonstrate that they are fully vaxxed this Fall. The unvaxxed will be required to participate in routine, rapid antigen testing. Sheridan
Trent U president Leo Groarke announced Aug 18 that anyone coming to campus as of Sep 7 must provide proof of 2 doses of COVID19 vaccine. All others will need to complete COVID19 testing before coming to campus. Mandatory masks, health screening, enhanced ventilation and cleaning will also continue. Students who submit proof of 2 doses by Sep 7 will be entered into a draw for free tuition for the semester. Trent
Really, at this point, the ONpses refusing to institute a vax mandate stand out. I haven’t seen a clear announcement from Humber, Northern, UOF or Hearst. I think only one Ontario institution still remains outspoken against a vaccine mandate…
Fanshawe College insists it will not require a vaccine to come to campus (although it is mandatory in residence and for varsity athletes). 60% of Fanshawe students are expected to study remotely, and only ~1,300 of 19,000 students will be on campus at any given time. Class sizes will be reduced, facemasks will be mandatory, and physical distancing imposed in classrooms. CBC | London Free Press
East of Ontario, things look somewhat different of course…
Controversies in Quebec
Quebec’s government announced Aug 5 a return to in-person instruction on CEGEP and university campuses this Fall, without masks or distancing in most classrooms. (It regards F2F instruction as an essential service, but not athletics or other extracurriculars.) On Aug 10, it detailed a province-wide smartphone-based vaccine passport system that would ban unvaxxed people from bars, restaurants, concerts and gyms as of Sep 1. It would likely also apply to student athletics and non-essential activities. Labour laws apparently mean that the staff working in those venues would face no such requirement. (Naturally, the plan sparked protests in the streets. Don’t come between the Quebecois and their favourite watering hole.) While some McGill Law profsargue that the lack of vaccine mandates discriminates against the immune-compromised, and the McGill Association of University Teachers is urging a vax mandate, the health ministry remains insistent that vaccine mandates are unnecessary for CEGEPs and universities in the province, even without masks and distancing. Some universities started taking matters into their own hands, extending mask mandates into the Fall at McGill, Concordia, Bishops U, and uMontréal (as well as 16 CEGEPs where vaccination levels are low). On Aug 17, premier Franćois Legault announced mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers across Quebec, but educators remain exempt “for now.” (Naturally, healthcare unions are “a little surprised by the severity of the measure.”) He also reversed course, and announced that masks will remain mandatory even while PSE students are seated in class.
Mandates in New Brunswick
All 3 major NB universities reportedly agreed as of Aug 13 that they would not require vaccinations for students, faculty or staff. UNB said it had decided against mandatory vaccines, but was offering vaccination clinics on campus and “letting students decide for themselves.” (Faculty critics call it the “path of least resistance.”) UNB also planned a database where students can self-declare their vax status. St Thomas Ureported that 88% of its students were fully vaxxed anyway. But the NB government announced yesterday that it is making vaccines mandatory for all government employees. (Partially vaxxed or unvaxxed employees would be required to wear masks. Being fully vaxxed would be a condition of employment for all new hires.) Also yesterday, St Thomas U announced it was making vaccines mandatory for students, faculty and staff, in response to strong recommendations from the province. UNB is circulating a survey and encourages students, faculty and staff to “maintain copies of their vaccination status” as the institution considers its approach. Mount Allison U announced a mandatory vaccine policy yesterday. Faculty, staff and students must show proof of being fully vaxxed by Oct 1, or they will be subject to regular COVID19 testing and required to wear masks. The MtA Students’ Union applauded the announcement.
Concerns in Nova Scotia
On Monday (Aug 16), Dalhousie U updated the community on its plans for Fall – which will not include distancing or class size caps, but masks will remain mandatory through the month of September. Students, faculty and staff are “advised” to be fully vaxxed prior to arriving on campus, but the NS PHO has advised against mandatory vax requirements. (“Although our approach to vaccination remains unchanged, we will continue to evaluate our stance with particular consideration towards future health risks driven by emerging variants.”) On Tuesday, Dal’s faculty association spoke out demanding a vaccine mandate for faculty, staff and students in time for September. (The executive committee passed a unanimous motion on Tuesday calling for mandatory vaccinations, as well as mask and social distancing requirements, and adequate levels of ventilation in all buildings.) Dal administration responded that it “values the contributions of faculty and will engage with them as plans evolve” – and yesterday announced that Dal is engaged in ongoing discussions with CONSUP and the NS PHO, as well as “exploring vaccination requirements for select potentially higher-risk activities” like residence and athletics.
West of Ontario, vaccine mandates remain a contentious topic, but progress is continuing…
Manitoba Seems Primed
So far, most MBpses have indicated they will not make vaccination mandatory this Fall, even though the province established vaccine cards and has indicated “universities can make their own decisions, as can businesses.” uManitoba is reportedly “discussing” its COVID19 protocols. RRC, uWinnipeg and Brandon U are apparently extending their mask mandates and physical distancing requirements. So far, as of yesterday, only Red River College has announced that vaccinations will be required on campus starting Sep 10. (2nd doses will be required by Oct 17.) At Manitoba’s universities, pressure continues from faculty associations. The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations called on the province to impose a vax mandate on all campuses at the beginning of August. The uWinnipeg Faculty Association has voted “overwhelmingly” to demand campus vax and mask mandates this Fall, to ensure a safe return to campus learning, and suggests vax status could be linked to RFID security passes. (“Contact tracing is an impossibility, cohorting is an impossibility, and distancing is in an impossibility. If we can have vaccines to attend a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game, I think we can have vaccines to attend university.”) The Brandon U Faculty Association likewise “hopes to start dialogue” with administration about a vax mandate, though they recognize the logistical issues at this late date.
Mandates in Saskatchewan
SKpse seems much more aligned with ONpse in their approach to vaccine mandates. The uSaskatchewan Faculty Association has been advocating for a vax mandate since the spring. On Aug 13, uSaskatchewan and uRegina announced vax mandates for students, staff and faculty on campus this Fall. uSask says proof of a 1st dose will be required by Sep 7, and of a 2nd dose by Oct 18, while the unvaxxed will be required to provide “regular and frequent negative COVID19 test results and to submit a daily symptom checklist” to access campus. (Vaccinations remain mandatory for students in residence, athletics, or high-risk activities.) uRegina and its federated colleges will require faculty, staff and students to be fully vaxxed by Oct 1. The unvaxxed will be asked to take a rapid antigen test twice weekly. (UofR says the fall semester will be a “transitional” one.) The uSask Students’ Union has some concerns, particularly about accommodating international students who may have faced obstacles to vaccination, or received vaccines not approved by HC. These concerns are shared by some uRegina students, and the uRegina Student Union also has concerns about privacy of health data and cybersecurity threats. For its part, Saskatchewan Polytechnic will require facemasks and social distancing this Fall, and is considering a vaccine mandate. (About 70% of SKPoly programs will be delivered in hybrid mode.)
About-Faces in Alberta
Just last week, most ABpses were planning a return to campus without mask or vaccine mandates, as the province planned to lift remaining COVID19 restrictions. Understandably, that prompted “grave concerns” among 21 law profs at uCalgary, sparked an open letter from hundreds of uAlberta students and faculty demanding mandatory vaccinations, and prompted calls from the uAlberta Students’ Union and Association of Academic Staff for greater precautions. As I mentioned Tuesday, PHO Deena Hinshaw backpedalled and postponed those changes until after the upcoming federal election – but nonetheless, ABpses apparently felt compelled to take further measures into their own hands. Earlier this week, Alberta’s 3 major universities announced vax mandates but reframed them as testing requirements. (In practice, this amounts to the same thing as many ONpses.) uCalgary, uAlberta and uLethbridge jointly announced that as of Sep 1, all faculty, staff and students coming to their campuses will be required to undergo “regular rapid testing,” except for those who attest they are fully vaxxed. A positive test would result in a 10-day quarantine. (uAlberta clarified Wednesday that community members may be required to provide documentary proof of vaccination. President Mike Mahon says uLethbridge will not ask for proof, nor apparently will uAlberta. There is still no indication what frequency “regularly” entails.) The 3 schools also reversed positions from just days earlier, announcing that masks will now be mandatory indoors when physical distancing is not possible. (In mandating masks, they were joined this week by Bow Valley College, Concordia U of Edmonton, Mount Royal, and SAIT.) Recently MacEwan announced that student athletes must be fully-vaxxed to compete with other institutions, and Concordia U of Edmonton is imposing a vax mandate on student athletes, those living in residence, and those “involved in Arts performances where they are not part of a course.” But, insists president Tim Loreman, CUE will not be implementing mandatory vax or testing policies, which “are simply unenforceable.” SAIT says it is “exploring the use of COVID19 rapid testing as a possible health and safety measure,” but AUArts, SAIT and BVC say they will not mandate vaccination.
“Implementing these measures at Alberta’s research universities allows us to collectively return to in-person formats that minimizes the risk for our students, faculty, staff and external partners as well as the risk of having to pivot away from the face-to-face environment we have been waiting for.” – Mike Mahon, President, uLethbridge
BC Stands its Ground?
I admit I’m disappointed in British Columbia PHO Bonnie Henry, who is allowing resistance to vax mandates – and even mask mandates! – to dominate, even as the province sees rising case counts in the interior. Not only is the BC government “confident” in a full return to campus without mandatory masks or social distancing, but the MAEST wrote Jul 29 that BCpses “should not introduce COVID19 prevention measures that are different from those supported by public health professionals,” and that no changes to current guidelines were being considered. In mid-August, most BCpses (including UBC, SFU, Langara, and BCIT) were toeing the provincial line. But since then, of course, protests and petitions have gathered momentum at uVic, SFU, and UBC (as well as CUFABC), all urging campus mandates for masks, vaccinations, or at least COVID19 testing.UBC president Santa Ono is on the record as being “supportive of mandatory indoor masking and vaccination.” (Although UBC’s Alma Mater Society wants to see actual mask and vax mandates.) The “debate continues” at Thompson Rivers U, which currently mandates neither masks nor vaccination. uVic hoped to have “more clarity” from discussions with the province and other universities this week. (The SFU Biology departmentwent so far as to announce its own mask mandate on Aug 13, and to give faculty permission to refuse entry to their offices and labs by unvaxxed people.) Royal Roads U is proceeding with its current plans, in line with the provincial RTC guidelines, “for now,” and president Philip Steenkamp warns that vaccine mandates are complex and challenging to enforce. “While we might have different opinions about how to proceed… we need to trust the public health officials who have years of training and expertise on these matters and, indeed, require a license to practice public health.” On Tuesday, the BC Ministry of Health said PHOs are in fact reviewing those guidelines, and more information will be forthcoming shortly.
(Crossing my fingers!)
“We need to trust the public health officials who have years of training and expertise on these matters and, indeed, require a license to practice public health. There has been a concerted attack on expertise across the globe in the last few years and I believe that we, as a university, need to defend and support the experts.” – Philip Steenkamp, President, Royal Roads U
“In light of the known knowns, known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns, and in the absence of any risk analysis brought forward by the University, we now believe that a robustly precautionary approach is most appropriate.” – Alan Richardson, President, UBC Faculty Association
That was such a long issue, you may not make it this far, but for those of you who count on some video stimulation at the end of each Insider, here’s a good one…
The WGU Soapbox
Western Governors U released a :30-sec spot earlier this month to emphasize its flexible online programs. A series of students mount the “WGU soapbox” to protest inflexible policies elsewhere, where colleges don’t seem to care. Instead, “the university of you” offers “tests on your time, courses on your time, and graduate on your time.” YouTube
Again, my apologies that it took me 3 days to compile this issue, which wound up being 3x too long! Special thanks if you made it this far!
I’m going to be recuperating this weekend – hope you have a good one too. Stay safe and be well!
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