Throughout the pandemic, the University of Waterloo has updated its health and safety policies multiple times in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The university has not instituted a vaccine requirement or mask mandate for the fall 2022 term, having suspended its proof of vaccination requirement on May 1, 2022. The university has advised faculty and students that a mask mandate or vaccination requirement can be reinstated on short notice if deemed necessary. A memo sent on August 22 to students stated that UW “continue[s] to strongly encourage [students]… help limit the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask.” The memo also advised students and faculty to remain up to date on their vaccinations to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Those feeling unwell are advised to follow Ontario public health requirements and complete the Ontario self assessment in order to determine their next steps. Students who have contracted COVID-19 are advised to self declare their absence from class. According to the President’s Forum on February 2, accommodation for those with COVID-19 will be the same as those for regular illnesses.
Post-secondary institutions across the country have taken a varied approach to dealing with COVID-19 as students return to campus. In line with Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University had also suspended their vaccine mandate on May 1, earlier this year. However, WLU continues to mandate masks for “any indoor activity that is part of academic course delivery,” including lectures, tutorials and exams. Conestoga College has also suspended proof of vaccination requirements on campus.
Western University stands out as the only university in Ontario to keep both its vaccine requirement, requiring all students returning to campus to have received three doses, as well as its indoor mask mandate. In response to this announcement by the university, protestors gathered on campus to voice their disapproval, with speakers against previous vaccine mandates also in attendance. Five students have sought an injunction in an attempt to block the university’s vaccine mandate.
UW’s own approach to the pandemic has also been the subject of intense controversy. As of the writing of this article, 50 employees of the university have been fired for noncompliance, including controversial chemistry professor Michael Palmer.
In a roundtable interview conducted in March with several professors who opposed UW’s vaccine mandate, professor Richard Mann expressed his disbelief at UW for seemingly ignoring opposing views, stating, “The university has not made any attempts to reconcile and to produce what the students want.”
Professor Rosina Kharal also voiced her frustration with the neglect she felt from the university, stating, “It’s been very stressful as well. And then we’re receiving, you know, every week these messages about equity and fair treatment, and how the University personnel should be treated fairly… and it’s like, [those against the mandates were] completely thrown to the back… [We’re] dehumanized, segregated, [it’s] acceptable prejudice.”
Vaccine and mask mandates have remained popular with both the faculty and the student body. A recent survey of faculty members revealed that 72 per cent supported a vaccine mandate and 63 per cent favoured a mask mandate. A survey conducted last November by WUSA revealed that 63 per cent of undergraduate students were in favour of a vaccine mandate.