University of Calgary faculty have "grave concerns" about return-to-campus plan

Aug 12 2021, 12:32 pm

After nearly a year and a half of online classes, the University of Calgary will be seeing a return to on-campus learning this September, and faculty members have expressed concerns over decisions about the school’s COVID-19 policies.

In preparation for the return to campus, University of Calgary (UCalgary) administration has been reviewing policies and safety measures to protect students, faculty, staff, and visitors of the post-secondary institution.

UCalgary is not making it mandatory to be vaccinated, nor are masks required on campus; however, the university strongly encourages students to get immunized against COVID-19.

“It is clear that the most important thing that can be done to protect the health and safety of our community is vaccination,” reads an open message to the campus from President Ed McCauley. “Vaccines protect us all. They are highly effective against all known variants, especially for severe disease.”

UCalgary has a drop-in clinic in the MacEwan Student Centre, and says that they are working with AHS to run more vaccination clinics on campus this fall. The university is also working with incoming international students to help them access full immunization.

And, while not required, the post-secondary institution also recommends those on campus to continue wearing masks in all buildings and residences, stating that “masks reduce the risk of you spreading an infection to others – whether that be [COVID-19], influenza or any other respiratory disease.”

The university also requested that everyone be respectful of individuals’ choices. “These are stressful times, and we ask you not to police the behaviour of others,” reads the open message.

Mask use will remain mandatory in patient clinics and transportation settings.

While the university recommends getting vaccinated and wearing masks, there has been backlash from staff due to these safety measures not being a requirement.

An open letter to the school administration, signed by 21 law faculty members, shows the professors’ concerns over the spread of the virus.

The letter cites concerns about the “highly transmissible” Delta variant, along with the spread of COVID-19 to those who cannot be vaccinated, are immunocompromised, or who may bring the virus home to family members, including unvaccinated children.

“We are keen to return to in-person learning,” reads the letter. “Unfortunately the public health approach adopted this far by the University of Calgary does not reflect an evidence-based response to these threats, particularly in light of the provincial government’s decision to remove virtually all restrictions in our wider community and to move away from the basic public health measures of testing, tracing, and isolating.”

“The planned return to in-person learning, without effective protections in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus, raises both workplace safety and human rights concerns.”

The faculty are asking that UCalgary administration immediately institute mandatory measures including requiring all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to provide proof of vaccination (or a medical exemption), masking, ensuring that ventilation and air filtration meet necessary standards, rapid testing, and the option of online learning and service assignments.

Associate professor Martin Olszynski wrote on Twitter that, as COVID-19 cases in Alberta continue to rise, he and other faculty will continue to advocate for mandatory vaccinations, masking, and “other evidence-based preventative health measures.”

In addition to encouraging masking and vaccination, the University of Calgary is also ensuring that the school’s ventilation and air-circulation systems meet standards and maximize air circulation, implementing an optional contract tracing service, and introducing rapid testing for residences, varsity athletics, and field schools where individuals reside on site.

Elle McLeanElle McLean

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