NEWS RELEASE – August 17, 2021
Petition from University Faculty, Staff and Students at BC Universities and Colleges Calls for Vaccine, Mask Mandate
VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Faculty Association, in collaboration with faculty members at UBC and SFU, has submitted a petition with over 2,000 signatures from faculty, students and staff at post-secondary institutions across British Columbia to Premier John Horgan, Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and BC Minister of Health Adrian Dix, calling for vaccine and mask mandates on campus.
“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 requirement on campus” said Dr. Lynne Marks, president of the University of Victoria Faculty Association. “These signatures were gathered over six days, showing just how concerned faculty, students and staff are regarding a return to campus without masks, without distancing, and without requirements for vaccination.”
Current plans, based on the government’s Return to Campus Guidelines, assume campuses can return to most pre-pandemic practices, including no required masking. 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.
“The continued silence from the BC government has raised anxiety on campus to a fever pitch and frustrated scientific experts at the university who have struggled to understand the government’s approach,” said Marks. “This is completely unacceptable. We need a clear, evidence based plan to ensure a safe, orderly return to classrooms in September.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry has argued that a return to face-to-face teaching is needed for the mental and emotional health of young people. Marks notes ”We agree. 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. 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.
Similar policies have been adopted by nearly all Ontario universities, including Queens University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto and Western University, as well as most recently the major universities in Saskatchewan and Alberta. These universities have more autonomy from government direction than is the case in BC. They have acted based on the latest scientific advice, putting in place regulations that protect their students, their employees, and broader communities, while also ensuring privacy and human rights will be respected.
The UVic Faculty Association (UVICFA) is the exclusive bargaining agent for Faculty and Librarians at the University of Victoria, representing approximately 850 members. We promote the welfare of our Members at the University of Victoria, and further the cause of higher education by upholding the principles of academic freedom, tenure, equity, and human rights within the University.
We acknowledge with respect and gratitude that our work takes place on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Lekwungen and WSANEC peoples.
President, UVic Faculty Association
Executive & Membership Services Advisor, UVic Faculty Association
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