COVID-19: UBC faculty call for mandatory vaccinations, masks on campus


Faculty members at the University of British Columbia are putting pressure on the school to implement stricter COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester.

The UBC Faculty Association says students and staff should be required to get vaccinated before returning to campus next month and masks should be mandatory in all public indoor spaces.

Click to play video: 'Will mandatory vaccination rules apply to B.C. teachers and support staff?'
Will mandatory vaccination rules apply to B.C. teachers and support staff?

In a message posted on the UBCFA website, president Alan Richardson said the association has voiced its concerns in a letter to university president Santa Ono and chair of the board of governors Nancy McKenzie.

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“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,” the letter reads.

“We therefore call upon UBC to adopt an indoor mask mandate in all its spaces and a vaccine mandate for all its employees and students (subject to the normal legal exemptions) in advance of the September reopening.

“This course of action will not only do the most to alleviate well-founded anxiety but will also allow the most secure planning of teaching and research activities.”

Read more: How experts say B.C. can counter rising COVID-19 case numbers

The faculty association says these protocols would help alleviate the anxiety among students and staff about returning to school amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The letter comes after the UBC student union asked for similar measures to be implemented.

On Tuesday, UBC President Santa Ono tweeted that health officials have updated COVID-19 guideles in the central Okanagan, including mandatory masks in indoor public places.

“I strongly recommend that all members of the UBC community wear masks indoors on all UBC campuses,” Ono said.

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On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province is working with post-secondary institutions to refine back-to-campus guidelines that were issued last month. Under the guidelines, vaccinations are recommended and masks are a personal choice.

“I do fully expect we’ll have back-on-campus instruction. It is just so very important for young people,” Henry said.

Read more: UBC student union calls for mandatory masks in classrooms, vaccines in residences

“That learning environment at that point in young adult lives is so incredibly important and it is part of our responsibility to be able to provide those kinds of opportunities.”

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Henry added that “we will be ensuring that there’s every opportunity for everybody to be immunized.”

Sylvia Fowler, a professor in UBC’s Dept. of Sociology, applauds the faculty association’s efforts, but noted there are no easy answers for university officials.

“I think the university administrators, to be fair, are in a difficult position,” she told 980 CKNW’s Mike Smyth. “They’re clearly under pressure not to impose stricter measures than the public health office is advising.

“And so far, the public health office is advising us essentially to do nothing. So I do feel for them.”

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