Open Letter to UBC on student concerns about returning to campus
Dear UBC Executives and the Board of Governors,
On behalf of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) of UBC, we are writing in regards to the health, safety, and well-being of the UBC Community as we return to campus this fall. On July 21st, 2021, the AMS Council unanimously passed a motion to call on the University of British Columbia to do more to ensure the safety and security of members of the UBC Community by mandating vaccinations in student residences and mandating masks in lecture halls.
According to the AMS Return to Campus Survey, to which 7933 UBC students (enrolled and incoming) responded, there is significant discomfort around the current messaging and measures being taken by the university. There is no doubt that the university is aligned with the Public Health Office (PHO). There is also no doubt that it is unacceptable for UBC, an institution that prides itself as a leader across the country, to only be doing the bare minimum in ensuring the safety and security of its students, staff, and faculty.
The student union, representing all 56,000+ undergraduate and graduate students, strongly believes that the University must do more than the bare minimum to ensure that we have a safe return to campus and that students feel comfortable attending UBC. The Alma Mater Society calls on the administration and the Board of Governors to address the concerns brought forth by the community through clear and comprehensive communication, mandating masks in lecture halls, and requiring vaccinations in student residences at UBC.
82% of students (with the knowledge that there are no mandatory vaccinations in Canada) would be in support of a policy to mandate vaccinations in student residences. As raised by us in previous correspondence, there is an increasing number of universities in North America that have mandated at least one dose of vaccination to be on campus, as well as, to reside in student residences (with exemptions). It is disappointing to see UBC fall behind as other Canadian institutions take the lead in this arena and implement extra measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their respective communities. UBC has shown exemplary leadership in the past by mandating masks on campus before the PHO mandate in 2020, and it is difficult to understand why the University is hesitant to show the kind of leadership that’s desired and needed by the community now. 60% of students have concerns about being exposed to COVID-19 in classrooms and lecture halls. With thousands of students coming back to campus who will be seated in packed lecture halls alongside hundreds of students, we ask that the University implement measures in those high-risk areas. This could be through a mask mandate in lecture halls, or other measures that the University deems will truly address the concerns of the UBC community.
UBC students are looking to their University’s leadership to go beyond the bare minimum by taking the extra measures of mandating vaccinations in student residences, mandating masks in lecture halls, and clearly addressing community concerns to ensure the place students call home feels safe enough to be their home. The reverberant message of the students we represent can no longer be ignored or dismissed by the University as it has been so far – this is an opportunity to demonstrate to students that the University’s leadership is genuine in their efforts to listen to and work for students.
President, Alma Mater Society
VP Academic and University Affairs, Alma Mater Society