Once again, I would like to thank you all for your support, engagement, and encouragement as we have advocated for stronger health and safety measures as we approach the beginning of the fall term.
We understand that many of you remain concerned about the return to in-person teaching for September, given that we are still awaiting more details on how the recently announced vaccine and rapid testing regulations will be implemented. The Association is in regular contact with the Administration on these matters. You received some information from the President yesterday, and I can provide a few more details in this email, but we still need to wait for further information from the Administration, who just received further clarity from the Public Health Office late yesterday. We will continue to be in contact with members when we can provide new concrete information.
In relation to the mask mandate, the Public Health Office released revised guidelines for the postsecondary sector on Wednesday: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID_public_guidance/Public_Health_Guidance_Campus.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0mPkbiqksL-cuTEWs28xaNHqAfImXv1sm-xdr1NsJ5Hw6ZgKcNjZhEGBU
The guidelines include information about mask wearing. The following are the most relevant sections:
- Instructors and other presenters do not need to wear a mask when behind a barrier or two metres away from students while teaching in indoor public spaces.
·While masks are not required in the Order for workspaces such as office areas, research labs or shared offices that do not serve the public, or for meetings and seminars in small meeting rooms, UVic will require masks to be worn in these areas if attendees cannot physically distance. Masks are not required if a person is behind a barrier that separates them from other people, like a divider, cubicle, or in a room by themselves.
The university is working on guidelines for how instructors can address issues related to students who are not wearing masks in classes. We expect to receive this guidance before classes start next week.
Microphones in classes
The university has told us that they will not be purchasing individual microphones for instructors, at least in part because there is a current shortage. They are planning to ensure that good microphones, with wipes to clean them, are available in all classrooms. Individuals may choose to purchase their own microphones, but if they do so they should ensure that they are compatible with other classroom technologies.
Meetings and office hours
Meetings, including department meetings, research group meetings, etc., and office hours can continue to be held over Zoom, rather than face to face.
Vaccinations and rapid testing
As President Hall noted, the university “has partnered with Thrive Health to introduce a self-declaration program [app] so that anyone with a NetLink ID who is attending campus can confidentially and securely declare their COVID-19 vaccination status.” It is our understanding that as part of the self-declaration, individuals will need to agree that the university has the right to seek proof to confirm vaccination if the university chooses to do so. The Thrive app will apparently be launched on September 8th.
The university is also working on developing a rapid testing system, which will be delivered on campus for those who are not vaccinated or prefer not to disclose their vaccination status. Such persons will be required to test weekly (which will apparently also be the case at SFU and UBC). The Association has asked that a minimum of twice weekly testing be required.
The university is developing a system to confirm that testing has been completed as mandated, and to institute consequences for those who fail to report the results of their tests. The Association is working with the Administration to ensure that any such consequences that might impact Association members remain within the progressive discipline process of our Collective Agreement.
We realize that the government only came to an agreement with the research universities late last week to allow them to require vaccination or rapid testing. So we understand the time constraints facing the university as it works to get these major new programs developed as quickly as possible. At the same time, we hope to hear more details very soon.
In the meantime, we encourage you all to continue to wear your masks and get vaccinated if you have not already done so. We understand that some of you may be implementing some online learning options for students who have not yet been able to arrive in Victoria, and that this may reduce the number of students on campus and in classrooms prior to the new regulations fully coming into effect.
At the same time, please remember that the Administration has committed to not requiring faculty to teach the same course in both online and face to face formats. If you have ongoing issues with student absences due to COVID and need to provide students with course material to keep up with the course, please recall that the university has committed to funding TAs as necessary to support any additional work that this may entail. While we realize that this may not be an option in all cases, if additional TA support would be helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to ask your Chair or Dean for such assistance, and if you have any concerns in this regard, feel free to contact the Association. If you yourself are not well enough to teach in person, or need to self-isolate, you may be able to teach online during such periods, with agreement of your Chair. At the same time, if you are sick, you should not feel obligated to teach in any modality, and can communicate with your Chair about providing other options for your students.
We very much hope that the new systems being put in place will help to ensure that we will not need to “pivot” online at any point during the term. However, as we know, with this virus there are no guarantees, so this remains a possibility to be aware of.
I should let you know that the Administration has declined to accept the Association’s request to allow faculty members to teach online for the first month of term as issues are resolved. The Administration’s rationale is that the university needs to bring students to campus to participate in campus life and overcome the long period of isolation they have experienced. However, we are aware that some flexibility with blended learning within your courses (some components online and some in person) may be in everyone’s interests in the first few weeks of classes as the administration develops vaccination and rapid testing requirements. If you have any particular concerns or questions about your working environment over the next few weeks, as the vaccine mandate and testing systems are put in place, please reach out to us.
You may contact me or any of our Membership Services Staff with these inquiries:
Reuben Kellen– Membership Services Officer – firstname.lastname@example.org (on Vacation until September 14th)
Wishing a sweet new year to those celebrating the Jewish New Year, and the best of luck with the new term for all.
All the very best,