Exec Statement – Return to Campus

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Exec Statement - Return to Campus

Hey uOttawa, 

Last week, University President Jacques Frémont announced that previously planned in-person courses will resume in-person on January 31st. Today, we are calling on the Central Administration to take additional measures to make their return-to-campus plan as safe as possible. 

In the UOSU’s survey earlier this month, 49% of students were opposed to returning to campus under the current COVID-19 conditions, while 46% of students were supportive. Although the decision to return to campus is the Central Administration’s, we believe they can and must do more to keep students safe. 

We’re calling on the Central Administration to show that it respects both students who want to return to campus and students who have concerns by implementing the following: 

  1. A 3rd dose vaccination mandate this semester: The scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, Dr. Peter Juni, has warned that 2 vaccine doses have “absolutely no relevant protection against infection”, and that only 3 vaccine doses should be used for an individual to be considered “fully vaccinated”. The Minto Sports Complex has 3rd doses on a walk-in basis. If all students on campus were boosted, there would be less infections, less community transmission of the Omicron variant, and less students and professors missing in-person classes. This vaccine mandate would make all students and faculty safer.
  2. Procuring KF94 and KN95 masks to offer to students: Multiple studies show that cloth masks are ineffective against the Omicron variant. Although N95 masks should be reserved only for health-care workers, KF94 and KN95 masks can offer similar protection and are widely available online. Not all students can afford these masks, and more students would wear them if they were widely offered on campus.
  3. Procure COVID-19 rapid tests to offer to students living in residences: Rapid tests are not widely available. However, in congregate settings such as residences, where the Omicron variant could spread rapidly, they are an essential tool in helping a student determine if they should isolate, instead of attending their in-person class or seeing some friends. 
  4. Transparently reporting all outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus to the University community: Students deserve to know if there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus. The infectiousness of the Omicron wave should not change that – to the contrary, the University should be even more proactive to keep students and professors safe. We call on them to publish their plan to transparently report COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.
  5. Record all in-person courses and suspend mandatory attendance: Even if all these measures were to be implemented, many students have said that they still do not feel safe returning to campus. By ensuring that all in-person courses are recorded and published online, students who started their semester online can finish it online. By removing mandatory attendance requirements for in-person courses, students will not force themselves to attend class if they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or suspect they are infected themselves.  

If you support these calls to action, or have concerns about the University’s return to campus plan, we urge you to contact the Office of Jacques Frémont, University President, at president@uottawa.ca. 

In-person courses and experiences are an extremely valuable part of a post-secondary education – let’s ensure they are as safe as possible for everyone. 

Sincerely, 

The UOSU Executive Committee