Editor’s note: please check back regularly for more updates.
January 12, 2022
Student athletes pushed to the sidelines
Ontario’s COVID-19 public health measures, which took effect on Jan. 5, have dealt a blow to university athletes across the province. Under the new restrictions, gyms and indoor recreational sport facilities are closed with the exception of those training for the Olympics, Paralympics and in certain professional and “elite amateur” sport leagues. CBC News reported that the exclusion of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Ontario Colleges Athletic Association from the “elite” designation led to an outcry from student athletes, coaches and advocates.
— Waterloo Warriors (@WlooWarriors) January 6, 2022
“The notion that the hard-working student-athletes, who have long strived toward the goal of competing at the post-secondary level and proudly representing one of the OUA’s 20 member institutions in the sport they love, aren’t considered elite by the Government of Ontario is a disservice to the dedication, commitment, and talent that they continue to show on a day-to-day basis,” reads a statement released by the OUA following the news.
Alexandra Adamo, press secretary to Premier Doug Ford, told CBC News that the decision was based on guidance from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Kieran Moore. The ban on indoor sports activities is in place until Jan. 27.
Universities weigh return to in-person learning
Ontario universities welcomed students back to online learning courses on Jan. 10, kicking off the Winter 2022 semester. The rapid rise of the Omicron variant, however, has delayed in-person learning until at least Jan. 24, and in some cases Jan. 31, at many universities across the province. The Toronto Star’s Nadine Yousif has reported that the expectation that students return to campus in the weeks ahead is causing anxiety and uncertainty, particularly for those living in residences.
In Quebec, the provincial government has maintained that postsecondary institutions are not sources of COVID-19 outbreaks and has urged universities to return on Jan. 17. But most have opted to take advantage of the two-week grace period granted by the province, further delaying the return to campus. Meanwhile, CTV News has reported that McGill University has suspended its COVID-19 rapid test pilot project to align with the government directive that tests be saved for symptomatic individuals.
Most universities in British Columbia have also chosen to push back their return-to-campus dates, prompting petitions from students at BCIT, Langara College and Douglas College demanding that their institutions follow suit, according to CTV News. The Chronicle Herald in Halifax reported a similar appeal launched by Memorial University students concerned with the safety of attending in-person this semester. In Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and other postsecondary institutions have announced that online learning will continue for the first three weeks of January.
Internationally trained nurses stepping in
Immediate staffing shortages in health-care facilities across the country are galvanizing internationally trained nurses living in Canada to return to work. On Jan. 12, CTV News reported that 1,200 of the nearly 15,000 internationally educated nurses in Ontario who are not practising in their field will be filling roles at hospitals and long-term care homes. The B.C. Nurses Union is also calling for a simplification of its certification process for internationally educated nurses.
January 5, 2022
VIU postpones classes
Vancouver Island University is delaying its Spring 2022 in-person learning to Jan. 10. “The increase and sudden surge of the Omicron variant is dynamic and fluid,” said VIU in a statement. “We are delaying the start of classes to give our Health and Safety team time to reinforce our current safety protocols and implement any additional measures if needed. Our priority is to keep our staff, faculty, and students safe.” Despite the delay, the campus was opened on Jan. 4 so that students have access to services.
UWaterloo pushes back start date for in-person classes
The University of Wateloo will be resuming in-person learning later than it originally anticipated, due to the announcement by the provincial government that Ontario will be returning to a modified version of Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen. “Before the winter break we moved most teaching and learning online until January 24, and we asked all employees who can work from home to do so until the same date. To align with the government direction, we will extend these arrangements until January 27,” the university said in a statement. “We know that for many people, returning to the campus is a necessity – even while most of our community learns and works remotely. This means that for people in the highest risk roles and situations who work on our campus we are working to obtain more rapid antigen tests and we continue to procure medical-grade masks that are available through Central Stores.”
Online learning isn’t all bad, says Toronto Star columnist
Recently, Toronto Star columnist Uzma Jalaluddin wrote about how the pandemic may actually have some positive outcomes for university students. She spoke to her niece who is in her fourth year at the University of Waterloo, who said “I’m not fighting for information, struggling to get the bare minimum. When you’re in a class setting, there are so many factors that affect your ability to obtain and retain information. It could be the layout of the class: is there a blackboard, is there a projector? Where are you sitting, are you beside people who are noisy? And if you have a class before, you’re running across campus. These are significant problems but they are understated, because (it’s assumed) that’s just what being a student is. But I disagree. It’s really just the flaws of the system that are unlikely to be addressed […] Having everything online makes it a lot easier for me. I have access to notes and I don’t need to worry, I’m able to go through everything. In addition, having online office hours has been a game changer.”
Ms. Jalaluddin goes on to say that she recognizes that many professors were forced to become more tech savvy, but it has also given them an opportunity to think about how to present their course material in a more effective manner.
“One thing is clear: school is changing in Ontario and around the world, and there is no sign that things will return to how they used to be; both for better and for worse, education is changing before our eyes,” she wrote.
December 23, 2021
Winter 2022 semesters will mostly start online across the country
Most universities in British Columbia are planning on returning to in-person learning for the Winter 2022 semester. This comes after a statement released by Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer wrote a letter to BC institutions, recommending universities return to in-person learning in January. “Moving to online instruction can be harmful as it is not an effective means of reducing transmission, may result in increased time in higher risk settings, and be detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of students,” she said. Some universities, like Emily Carr and Capilano were already delivering their courses in a hybrid method (online and in-person) and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Others, like the University of British Columbia, decided to delay in-person learning until Jan. 24. The semester will start as scheduled but will be online for the first few weeks. “Campuses will remain open, including student housing, student services, and all libraries. Managers and supervisors are encouraged to be flexible in allowing remote work, where academic or operational requirements permit; however, where in person work remains necessary, remote work arrangements may not be possible. Our intention is to enable a safe return to fully in-person learning and instruction on January 24,” said UBC president Santa Ono in a statement.
Several institutions in the province have recently changed their plans for the resumption of studies in January due to concerns about Omicron’s spread. MacEwan University said it will move winter term classes online from Jan. 5 to 21. The University of Alberta also released a statement saying it will begin the term “primarily online,” as will the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge. In its own release, the U of Calgary said classes will be held remotely until Jan. 31. . Meanwhile the U of Lethbridge said all classes on both of its campuses will be delivered online through Jan. 21.
The University of Regina said winter-term classes will now begin on Jan. 10 to allow time for a transition back to remote learning. Classes will be offered online until Jan. 22, although the situation will be re-evaluated in mid-January.
A handful of schools are switching to remote classes temporarily. The University of Winnipeg said the measure will remain in place until reading week, which runs Feb. 20-26. At L’Université de Saint-Boniface, classes and student services will be offered online until Feb. 18. Brandon University said its classes will be held online until the end of January, and the start of the winter term may be postponed to Jan. 10. At the University of Manitoba, classes and “non-essential activity” will be delivered online through Feb. 26.
Most postsecondary institutions in Ontario have decided to delay the start of their winter semester until the end of January. When they do begin, many will be online. As Alan Shepard, president and vice-chancellor of Western University said in a statement, “A delayed start of classes will provide time for our faculty and staff to shift classes to virtual platforms, and to prepare to provide the best experience possible for our students.” Universities also reminded students, faculty and staff that if the stress of these rapid changes are affecting their mental health, to please contact their university’s mental health support services.
Both McGill University and Concordia University are hoping to have students, faculty and staff all back on campus by the second week of January. McGill plans to have their first week back online, and to resume in-person learning on Jan. 10. For Concordia, all instruction will be delivered remotely, with the exception of certain labs, from Jan. 6 to 12. In-person classes are scheduled to resume on Jan. 13.
All classes will start on their regularly scheduled date in January, but they will be delivered online. This online instruction period is “intended to allow for a full academic term and a resumption of classes, while beginning with less in person and on campus activity as a precautionary measure,” an update from Mount Allison University said.
The University of Prince Edward Island released a statement, letting their community know that the 2022 winter semester will begin as scheduled on Jan. 10, but teaching and learning will move to online delivery until at least Jan. 17. “With almost two years of pandemic uncertainty, this situation is challenging for everyone involved. However, decisions are driven by our priority to keep the UPEI community safe. I am very proud of how everyone has united through these common challenges by exhibiting compassion, understanding, and patience,” said UPEI president and vice-chancellor Greg Keefe.
The bulk of university classes in Nova Scotia will be delivered online for most of January. So far, the only institution that hasn’t announced modified plans for the winter semester is Acadia University. All others have either delayed the start of their winter semester or will be doing online learning until at least mid-month.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Memorial University will return to a primarily remote teaching and learning environment for the start of winter semester until Jan. 31, with classes starting on Jan. 10. “[This] delayed date was selected to provide additional time for employees and students returning from travel to self-isolate and facilitate maintaining the scheduled end of semester. The new start date will not change the university diary dates as outlined in the calendar. All other semester dates will remain unchanged,” said Florentine Strzelczyk, provost and vice-president, academic.
December 15, 2021
Infections rising on campuses across the country due to Omicron variant
On Dec. 12, Queen’s University announced it was cancelling all in-person exams for the rest of the year. This decision comes as Kingston, Ont., deals with a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. According to CBC News, the university made these changes in response to a rise COVID-19 cases within its student population. The Kingstonist reported that there currently over 300 positive cases on campus. In a statement released Dec. 11, the university said, “If a student has to miss a class, exam, or another academic requirement due to symptoms, COVID-19 illness, or a self-isolation requirement, timely academic consideration will be granted.”
On Dec. 14, Western University announced it would also be moving its exams online. “While our case counts remain low, we are watching what is happening across the country and have decided some proactive steps are prudent in the face of Omicron,” the university said in a statement. It goes on to say that students should expect that exams scheduled for Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 will be held in-person, unless otherwise notified. Exams scheduled from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23 will shift online with the exception of clinical and some other assessments that are required to be completed in-person.
Meanwhile on the other side of the country, the University of Victoria also announced it was cancelling in-person exams due to rising cases on its campus. CTV News reported that the university announced in a statement Dec. 12 that it would be “adjusting” its examinations for the remainder of the December 2021 exam period, effective Dec. 13.
“To reduce the frequency and number of students sitting together for extended periods of time in examination gyms and rooms, we will not be holding further in-person exams and we are asking instructors to offer their assessments online or in another format,” the statement read.
So far, at least 30 positive cases have been linked to the university. Island Health’s top doctor, Richard Stanwick, told CTV News that the cluster of cases had been traced to two off-campus parties held last weekend by business students and varsity athletes. The Province is also reporting that the UVic men’s rugby team is specifically part of the reason cases are rising. The team participated in a tournament in Kingston, in late November and several cases have arisen after some of the parties, many with the Omicron variant.
“It looks like that outbreak has been driven by Delta, as well as an introduction partway through of Omicron related to a rugby tournament that has, sadly, spread Omicron to university communities across the country,” said Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.
On the East Coast, Dalhousie University, Cape Breton University and Acadia University have announced they will stop offering in-person exams as of Dec. 14, while Saint Mary’s University is also making changes, in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses, according to CBC News. According to the article, Saint Mary’s is continuing with some in-person exams, but with new guidelines beginning Dec. 15, which will include students having to wear masks during their exams.
On Dec. 14, Mount Allison University also announced it was cancelling in-person exams due to rising cases on its campus. According to CBC News, there are five confirmed cases of the virus on campus. The article states that the university is also asking employees to work from home if possible, and asking students who can return home for Christmas break to do so as soon as possible.
St.FX grapples with an outbreak, gives option to have exams online
After St. Francis Xavier University hosted a graduation event on Dec. 3, 125 students were put in isolation after several positive cases were reported on campus. While health protocols were followed during the ceremony, some unsanctioned off-campus events are being investigated, according to CTV News. “While we know that news of these new cases will cause anxiety, please be assured that university officials continue to work closely with Public Health to monitor the overall status of the outbreak,” said Andy Hakin, president of St.FX, in a statement. Dr. Hakin later tested positive for COVID-19 as well, according to another CTV News article. “I was notified of my positive status last evening [Dec. 12]. [Several senior staff members who tested positive] are all fully vaccinated and experiencing mild flu-like symptoms,” Dr. Hakin said in another statement. “All public health protocols are being followed and we are able to work virtually while we isolate. The focus of our team remains on supporting our students and our community.”
The outbreak has forced the school to push final exams online, according to CBC News. The article states that the university announced on Dec. 8 that it would be offering two options for exams: “1) In-person exams can go ahead. However, students who are unable to attend or uncomfortable writing them in person can defer/postpone the exam until January. 2) Online exams or take-home ones will be permitted, but it’s up to the professors to make the decision.”
According to the CBC, Martin van Bommel, the president of the St. FX Association of University Teachers, sent an email to faculty, stating: “Given the current environment, we would suggest individuals move their examinations online where feasible.”
Adding insult to injury, according to Global News several of the cases identified in the outbreak were because of the Omicron variant, which is spreading throughout Nova Scotia and into other provinces.
Long lines, in-person exams leave McGill students angry
CTV News is reporting an online petition was launched at McGill University, calling on the university to switch to online exams for their finals, citing safety concerns related to rising COVID-19 cases. According to several students, they have been forced to wait in long lines to write their exams, only to enter packed lecture halls.
— Steffanie Brown (@BrownSteffanie1) December 9, 2021
“First-hand accounts of students returning to campus for in-person midterms report sitting in a crowded lecture hall with hundreds of their peers, scribbling their answers as they rub elbows with their neighbours,” reads the petition posted to the change.org website. “Only to find out a few days later (by email from McGill) that they have been in contact with a reported case of COVID-19. It is almost expected to receive this news under these conditions.”
The university responded, saying it is addressing the issue, after videos and images began circulating on social media. “We have listened to the feedback re yesterday’s exam issues (downtown) and have implemented new entrance protocols beginning today to resolve problems identified,” it said in a Twitter post.
Currently, the university has no plans to switch to online exams.
December 8, 2021
N.S. MLA questions Dalhousie’s role in COVID-19 relief funding distribution
The Cape Breton Post is reporting that Nolan Young, the Progressive Conservative member for Shelburne, N.S., wants to know if other institutions were considered before the provincial government entered into a $100 million contract with Dalhousie University to administer relief programs to assist individuals and businesses at the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.
“I think it’s the management capacity that they (Dalhousie) have, they have numerous faculties that they would be able to draw on in uncertain times. We look at a business school, we look at a legal faculty, we look at a medical faculty. There is a lot of capacity that they had, not knowing what gaps might need to be filled,” said Geoff Gatien, associate deputy minister of the finance department and treasury board .
This comes after auditor general Kim Adair delivered two performance audits concerning the government’s practice of funnelling taxpayers’ money into external agencies that are outside of government control.
Outbreak declared at U of Windsor
Four positive cases have been identified at University of Windsor’s Alumni Hall residence. According to CTV News, the discovery was made after the virus was detected in daily wastewater screening from the building last Saturday. According to the article, Alumni Hall residents are under modified quarantine, meaning students are asked to access the university’s testing facilities, avoid close contact with others in residence and the community, limit contact outside their residence to essential trips as much as possible and continue to follow other public health measures until the outbreak is rescinded.
St.FX cancels classes
St. Francis Xavier University cancelled classes this past Tuesday due to what appears to be an outbreak of COVID-19. The Cape Breton Post is reporting there are at least 12 positive cases on campus. According to the article, a string of social events that were held on campus are to blame.
“The formal events were closely following public health protocols, proof of vaccination, masking where necessary. We’re clearly looking at if there are indications of non-compliance (in non-formal gatherings) with public health measures, whether proof of vaccination or large parties,” said chief public health officer Robert Strang.
Currently, St.FX does not require its students or staff to be vaccinated.
USask introduces three-dose vaccine policy
True North is reporting that the University of Saskatchewan is requiring its students to have “at least two doses” of COVID-19 vaccine in order to set foot on its campus starting in January, and will require a third dose whenever they’re “eligible.”
The university’s website states, “[…] when you are eligible for your third COVID-19 booster shot, proof of that will be required for you to continue to be considered fully vaccinated.”
Starting Jan. 4, any student who cannot show proof of full vaccination will be deregistered from their courses. According to the article, rapid testing, which was allowed in the fall term, will no longer be accepted.
December 1, 2021
Dalhousie implements vaccine mandate
When the winter term starts at Dalhousie University, all staff and students will be required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Previously, anyone who didn’t provide that proof had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test twice a week. But, according to the CBC, the university said 80 per cent of the people that policy applies to haven’t been doing that.
“While we have been working through compliance measures to increase this percentage, it is one of several factors that have led us to consider a revised approach to the winter term,” Dalhousie spokesperson Janet Bryson told the media outlet.
“For those who haven’t [registered their vaccination status], the transition to a requirement for proof of full vaccination will start in the coming weeks and continue through the winter term,” she said.
Outbreak declared at Western University residence
On Nov. 27, Western University reported five positive cases of COVID-19 at the Saugeen-Maitland Hall residence. All of the positive cases are students. According to a statement released by the university, there has been no evidence of classroom transmission.
“We want to assure you that the health and safety of our campus community remains our number one priority,” said Chris Alleyne, Western’s associate vice-president of housing and ancillary services. “Western is prepared for this scenario and we are coordinating closely with the [Middlesex-London Health Unit] to ensure students are receiving appropriate care and that proper precautions are being taken to minimize further risk of transmission.”
Organization demands USask rescind its vaccine mandate
Global News is reporting that an organization called the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is threatening legal action if the University of Saskatchewan’s vaccine mandate is not rescinded.
“Our concern with the university’s approach is it’s using one hammer to address all of the concerns,” said JCCF lawyer Andre Memauri. “There are a number of tools that can be used.”
The university has responded to the demands by stating that vaccination is the most effective way to combat COVID-19, and that testing protocols “are not preventive and should only be resorted to when no other option exists,” according to Darcy Marciniuk, chair of the USask Pandemic Response and Recovery Team, in a statement to Global News. He added that staff and students with extenuating circumstances are able to request an accommodation under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
U of Manitoba to resume in-person learning
Starting in the winter team, the University of Manitoba will welcome students and staff back to in-person learning. According to Global News, the university will require all employees and students to be fully vaccinated and upload proof in order to be allowed on campus, and that rapid testing will no longer be available. The article also states that students who do not submit vaccine proof before the winter term starts will be de-registered from courses. Any staff members who don’t show proof will be put on unpaid leave.
UM is excited to return to in-person working for the start of winter term. To support this, all employees and students are required to be fully vaccinated and upload their proof of vaccination to be on campus.
#VaccinesWork #VaccinesSaveLives #COVID19 #uManitoba
— University of Manitoba (@umanitoba) November 26, 2021
November 24, 2021
USask will bring back in-person lectures of 200 or more students
The University of Saskatchewan is announcing more in-person instruction for the winter team, according to the Star Phoenix. Thirty classes of more than 200 students each are “on deck” for the winter term, including “a very isolated few” in the 400 to 500 range, said university deputy provost Patti McDougall during an update from the university. The article also stated that the university plans to monitor the situation for the first few weeks of the winter term before moving to add any more in-person activity or reduce restrictions any further.
Unvaccinated Ryerson students will not receive winter timetables
Global News is reporting that any Ryerson University student who is unvaccinated or has not yet declared their vaccination status will not receive their winter timetables or be able to add courses. The article also stated that all undergraduate, graduate and law students who remain “non-compliant” by Dec. 15 will be removed from any in-person courses next semester and “may lose access to key Ryerson systems.” This is according to the school’s updated policy.
UBC prof receives award for work on Pfizer vaccine
Pieter Cullis, a University of British Columbia professor and co-founder of Acuitas Therapeutics, has been named a co-winner of the 2021 Prince Mahidol Award for medicine for his work on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to the Globe and Mail, the US$100,000 award is one of the first high-profile international science prizes to acknowledge the pioneers behind mRNA vaccines. Dr. Cullis is sharing the prize with Katalin Kariko, the senior vice-president at BioNTech, based in Mainz, Germany, and Drew Weissman, the director of vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Cullis’s research helped vaccine-makers encase the fragile RNA molecules inside a lipid bubble, or “nanoparticle,” which protects RNA from degradation and allows it to penetrate cells. The system is essential for the vaccines to work, the article stated.
New OUSA survey reveals students dislike online learning
The Toronto Star is reporting that the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has conducted a survey of 5,700 undergraduate students and found that many respondents were not happy with online learning. The article stated that fewer interactions and less personal connections were listed as concerns, and students were finding it “not motivating, not engaging or hard to focus.”
OUSA said communication with students must be improved, and the province also needs to do a better job giving schools COVID-19 guidance. It also said that while remote learning can be of benefit to students with disabilities, many “have not had their access needs and accommodations met or respected during online learning” and called for improved supports and course quality.
The article stated that the organization is asking for free, rapid testing to be widely available on campuses to keep students safe, and that the government boost money and supports for mental health after the pandemic. They are also asking that the province take into account the economic impact of COVID-19 on the ability of students and their parents to work when calculating student loans, and offer a tuition rebate if campuses close down and full online learning returns.
November 17, 2021
Yukon U announces vaccine mandate
Yukon University says that all students, employees and contractors to be fully vaccinated at all 13 of its campuses. In addition, all students and visitors will need to be fully vaccinated to attend the Ayamdigut campus in person. That’s according to a news release from the university. The new rules take effect Feb. 18, meaning that anyone who is unvaccinated will need to get their first vaccine dose by Dec. 10, and their second by Feb. The university said it was taking the measures for the “continued health and safety of students, employees and visitors.”
U of Winnipeg releases more details on winter term
Jan Stewart, interim provost and vice-president, academic at the University of Winnipeg, has released a statement with more information detailing what the winter term will look like at the institution. It says approximately 70 per cent of classes will be delivered in person. Vaccine and mask mandates will remain in place, and access to campus will remain limited to anyone for “teaching, learning, research, work, and other specifically authorized purposes. Building access will continue to be controlled at designated points. Entry will be granted only to those who have a green ‘campus access’ sticker, which indicates proof of full vaccination.”
U of Windsor to co-host discussion panel on vaccine hesitancy
The University of Windsor and St. Clair College are planning to hold an online discussion panel on vaccine hesitancy among young adults in the region. That’s according to an article in the Windsor Star, which says that residents aged 18 to 24 are the least vaccinated age group locally. The student-led initiative, which will be accompanied by a social media campaign, “is meant to provide educated answers to questions young adults may have about COVID-19 vaccination,” the article said. Anyone in the community can take part in the event.
U of Toronto joins ‘post-COVID alliance’
The Universities of Toronto, Manchester and Melbourne are setting up a “post-COVID alliance” to encourage more student exchanges and joint research projects, according to a press release. The move will take advantage of “new ways of studying, working and collaborating that have emerged during the pandemic” to allow more collaboration. Together the three institutions, which boast 187,000 students and 45,000 staff, will offer opportunities at the graduate level and will enable researchers to access “specialist facilities” and joint programs in areas such as “environmental sustainability, cancer treatment and advanced materials.”
University Health Network vaccine mandate is a matter for arbitration, court rules
An Ontario court has dissolved an interim injunction that kept several workers in Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) from being terminated for their vaccination status. That’s according to an article in the Law Times. The UHN announced its vaccine mandate in August, in line with provincial guidelines for high-risk settings. Employees had until Oct. 22 to be fully vaccinated or face termination. A day before the deadline, six unvaccinated workers “served an urgent court motion seeking injunctive relief to stay their terminations,” the article stated. That led to the interim injunction, which the Ontario Superior Court has now dissolved, saying the dispute should be a matter for arbitration, not civil action.
November 10, 2021
81% of university students feel optimistic, despite pandemic
According to a survey conducted by Maclean’s over the summer, many university students feel equipped to deal with their problems some or most of the time. Of the 19,000 students surveyed, 79 per cent reported feeling optimistic about their future, and 68 per cent said they felt productive some or most of the time. But the article also said students don’t uniformly feel positive right now. An equivalent number of students feel lonely (69 per cent), anxious (77 per cent), and worried about their health (63 per cent) or the health of their loved ones (79 per cent). It is also important to note that the survey does not capture students who haven’t been able to make it to a postsecondary institution or those who didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity to fill out a survey. But still, the article said, it does suggest that thousands of young people seem to be doing OK right now.
USask student evicted for not receiving vaccine
A University of Saskatchewan student says that his religion does not allow him to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and this has resulted in him being evicted from his campus residence. The student, Jimmy Ding, has been staying at St. Andrew’s College while pursuing a degree in geological engineering. CTV News reports that the principal of St. Andrew’s College, Richard Manley-Tannis, said the living space at the college is communal with a shared kitchen and shared bathrooms, and because of the building’s age, it has no ventilation system.
“It became clear that a significant amount of the current residents were not comfortable with having somebody unvaccinated, even with rapid testing in place, and owing to the context of the building,” he said.
Mr. Ding has since been in contact with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) about his eviction. USask is currently working with him to try and find alternate accommodations. However, starting Jan. 4, 2022, anyone accessing the USask campus will be required to show proof of double vaccination.
VIDO receives $6 million for vaccine research
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has awarded $6 million to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan. CTV News is reporting that the money will be used to help advance the development of vaccines that provide broad protection against COVID-19 variants and other coronaviruses. This includes identifying vaccine targets, formulating vaccines, manufacturing them and preclinical testing.
Memorial plans to lift cap on classroom sizes for winter semester
After a “transitional” semester this fall, CBC News is reporting that Memorial University plans to lift its 100-person cap on classroom sizes for the winter semester.
“We know there’s been challenges with student events and getting people together that is so essential as part of the student experience, but it’s been tough to manage the risks of COVID,” said Greg McDougall, the university’s chief risk officer.
The article says Memorial has had about 30 per cent of its classes in person for the fall semester, and the remaining 70 per cent are being conducted online.
Carleton to welcome more students back to campus for winter 2022
“The winter 2022 term will see more in-person classes than fall 2021, and we are also planning some classes with increased capacity limits.” This is according to a recent statement released by the university. “As of November 15, 2021, we will safely increase capacity limits in our athletics facilities and dining locations. Throughout the winter term, we are looking to provide more opportunities for additional in-person student engagement activities on campus outside of the classroom.”
The university is also anticipating restarting some in-person conferences in May 2022, and is also exploring holding in-person convocation ceremonies in June.
McGill to offer rapid COVID-19 testing for students and staff
CTV News is reporting that McGill University is now offering voluntary rapid COVID-19 tests to asymptomatic students and staff through a pilot project. According to the article, between four and eight tests can be conducted every 20 minutes. The test involves a nasal swab and must be self-administered. Participants must be asymptomatic when taking the test and any negative results cannot be used for travel or any other purposes, said the university. According to the article, McGill is Montreal’s first university to bring rapid testing to campus.
November 3, 2021
Saint Mary’s suspends daily check-in requirement
Thanks to a high vaccination rate on campus as well as most of the community voluntarily uploading their vaccination status, Saint Mary’s University decided to suspend the daily check-in requirement as of Nov. 1. Free on-campus asymptomatic screening is now available on campus. Take-home kits are also available at multiple locations on campus for increased convenience.
Western opens dining halls
The Great Hall in Somerville House and Alumni Hall at Western University are currently open for indoor study, providing a space where students can work, eat and drink while seated. However, beginning the week of Nov. 8, these areas will also be open for restaurant-style dining. According to a recent update from the university, these spaces have controlled entrances that will feature a health and safety ambassador checking vaccine passports and IDs. Individuals will be permitted to sit together, however masks must be worn when not seated, eating or drinking. Those with exemptions from vaccination are not permitted to access these restaurant-style dining spaces.
USask plans for winter term
Effective Jan. 4, 2022, anyone accessing the University of Saskatchewan’s campuses and workplaces will need to show proof they have received at least two doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines. Submitting rapid test results will no longer be an option for campus access.
“We are providing two months’ notice of the upcoming change to allow enough time for everyone deciding to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 to be able to do so. We encourage anyone not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated immediately to avoid any interruption to their studies or work as the Winter term begins,” said president Peter Stoicheff in a recent statement.
“I reiterate that if you are not fully vaccinated or choose not to upload your vaccination status by Jan. 4, 2022 you cannot access campus for any reason. This includes the PAC, Huskie games, libraries, dining facilities, and any building, office, and classroom on our campuses. This requirement also extends to all vendors and contractors.”
Cases on campus
Cape Breton University is reporting one new case on its campus.
Two new positives cases are being reported at the University of Manitoba.
Wilfrid Laurier University has been notified that two students living in separate residences on the Waterloo campus have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The university has also shared that there are three additional student cases, not living in residence, that have been deemed low risk by the public health authority.
The University of Saskatchewan is reporting eight positive COVID-19 cases involving members of the university community on and off campus.
October 27, 2021
More universities announce return-to-normal plans for winter semester
According to a statement released on Oct. 21, McMaster University is planning to resume in-person classes in the winter term, with very limited exceptions. “Teams across campus are also planning to ramp up on-campus student life activities so they are closer to, if not meeting, pre-pandemic capacities. This includes services and resources, events, and student study and social space,” said Susan Tighe, provost and vice-president, academic in the statement.
Florentine Strzelczyk, provost and vice-president, academic at Memorial University, said in a statement that the university is planning for winter 2022 in-person activities to return to mainly pre-pandemic conditions. However, courses will continue to be delivered in two modes: in person/on campus and online. “At this time, full remote delivery will only be used in cases where an instructor has been officially granted a workplace accommodation approved through the Workplace Accommodation Policy,” she said.
Ryerson University is also planning a significant increase in on-campus activity for the winter term. “This will allow us to support students in their return to campus and in-person instruction, and to ensure the best possible student experience,” said Jennifer Simpson, provost and vice-president, academic. “In the interest of everyone’s well-being, the university will continue its wholistic approach to safety in winter 2022, including proof of vaccination and daily health screening for those coming to campus, continued masking requirements, and air flushing. This approach has served us well to date, and will continue to create the best possible environment for everyone on campus.”
University of Guelph researchers develop plant-based mask filter
Loong-Tak Lim, a food science professor in the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, and graduate student Singam Suranjoy Singh have developed a surgical mask filter from plant cellulose. The mask’s biodegradable filter was designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Guelph-Mercury Tribune reported that this could offer a more breathable and sustainable alternative to traditional surgical masks.
“The SARS-CoV-2 virus is very small, so our non-woven mask is designed with smaller fibres to filter better than typical surgical masks,” Dr. Lim told the paper. He went on to say that that non-woven filters with small fibres are more breathable and more efficient at filtering microscopic pathogens like viruses, while traditional mask filters are made of propylene and polyester, which are not biodegradable.
According to the article, the team is going to test the filter’s ability to destroy pathogens in different environments that simulate breathing. They will also explore ways to integrate their filters into commercially available masks.
Questions remain at 2 Vancouver institutes around testing protocols for unvaccinated students
Currently, students and staff at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University have not been mandated to get their COVID-19 vaccine. They have instead been asked to declare their vaccination status through an online portal. But some are saying that not everyone is following the directions. CTV News spoke with Derek Sahota of the SFU Teaching Support Staff Union, who said that there is no enforcement to upload your status and no consequences if you don’t.
“And so that means at the moment, about 15 per cent of the community, we have no idea whether they’re vaccinated or not or whether they’ve been tested or not.”
UBC responded by saying that the university will be starting an audit of its community’s vaccination declarations and that continued non-compliance “may lead to significant repercussions.”
SFU released a similar statement, saying “Any continued non-compliance will be reviewed and followed up on a case-by-case basis. An audit will also be conducted in November to ensure the accuracy of proof of vaccine submissions.”
However, the article states that neither school has said how they will enforce the rapid-testing mandate for the unvaccinated – or what consequences there could be.
StFX implements mandatory COVID-19 testing policy for all students and employees
According to a recent statement released by St. Francis Xavier University, starting Oct. 14 all students and employees are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, with the tests being administered at least 48 hours apart. Those that have been vaccinated for at least two weeks with two doses of a vaccine approved by the federal government are exempt. If any employees fail to comply with this policy, they will receive a written warning. “If non-compliance continues after two written warnings, the employee will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence and will be required to pay 100% of their benefits during their period of unpaid leave.” Any student that does not comply will receive a written warning on the first offence. On the second offence, the student will be required to meet with Student Life and create a testing schedule to which they must adhere. “If non-compliance continues the student will be subject to suspension through the University’s Code of Conduct or will be permitted to withdraw from the university without financial penalty.”
Cases on campus
The University of Manitoba is reporting one new case on its campus.
Seven new cases have been reported at McGill University.
The University of Saskatchewan is reporting nine positive COVID-19 cases involving members of its community on and off campus.
One new case has been reported at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus.
October 20, 2021
Meet Noah Little: the USask student behind COVID-19 Tracker Canada
Maclean’s recently profiled Noah Little, the University of Saskatchewan student who created the COVID-19 Tracker Canada website. According to the article, Mr. Little started collecting data in March 2020, when he discovered there was no provincial or national dashboards displaying the latest numbers of cases, hospitalizations or deaths. Helped by a small group of volunteers, he gathers the data manually and posts it as soon as he can. Updating the website takes a total of three or four hours each day. He credits previous coursework involving statistics and data visualizations with helping him make the data clear and the sourcing of his data transparent. As a second-year biomedical neuroscience student, he thinks his newly honed interest in epidemiology could play a role in his eventual medical career.
New COVID-19 policy at Ryerson
Starting Oct. 19, anyone who is unvaccinated will no longer have access to Ryerson University’s campus or be allowed to take part in in-person university activities off-campus. CBC News is reporting that this updated policy applies to students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors. The university is hoping this update along with its vaccination mandate will allow for more in-person learning in the winter semester.
MacEwan proof of vaccination program begins
As of Monday, students at MacEwan University need to provide proof of vaccination to gain entry to in-person classes. According to CTV News, any students who do not comply could face expulsion. Students can either upload to the university’s mobile app proof that they received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or had a negative rapid antigen test completed within 72 hours of arriving on campus.
Masks mandatory at University of the Fraser Valley
By order of British Columbia’s public health officer, masks must be worn in all of the University of Fraser Valley’s indoor public spaces. This includes classrooms, shops, lobbies, washrooms, hallways, stairwells, elevators, and labs. The only exceptions are if you are alone in a private office or workspace.
OCAD U plans for return to normal class occupancy levels for winter 2022
“I am writing to you today to announce that, barring any directives from the Ontario government or Toronto Public Health, we will end the requirement for physical distancing in instructional spaces for the Winter 2022 term.” This was the recent message from Ana Serrano, president and vice-chancellor of OCAD U. Ms. Serrano also clarified that any courses tagged as remote will stay remote for the winter semester. She also issued a reminder that only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed on the campus as of Oct. 26.
President of Queen’s issues statement on unsanctioned student parties
On Oct. 17, the president of Queen’s University, Patrick Deane, issued a statement to his university’s community expressing extreme disappointment after some unsanctioned parties took place involving Queen’s students.
“Thousands of people gathered throughout the day and night, ignoring the law and showing little or no respect or care for others. We very much appreciate the work of the Kingston Police and OPP who demonstrated restraint and acted with professionalism to try to manage the crowds, and we acknowledge the concerns of the community members—including our own alumni—who have expressed outrage and frustration over the behaviour they witnessed last night.”
York plans to bring more students back for winter semester
York University is hoping to have a full return to on-campus academic activities for the winter 2022 term. In a university statement, Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York, said if vaccination rates and forecasts continue on the right track, courses are being planned without class size caps or temporal gaps between classes.
“We expect mask protocols among other health and safety measures to remain in place, and ask for everyone’s cooperation in continuing to observe them now and into the winter term.”
She also said there would be a small amount of flexibility for continued remote learning this winter. “Many programs will continue to offer online courses or components (as they did prior to the start of the pandemic), to accommodate the diverse needs of students and to enrich the student learning experience. We have also learned a great deal about technology-enhanced learning these past 19 months, and some colleagues are planning to pilot new e-learning methodologies this winter for potential longer-term adoption.”
Lack of clarity around on-campus testing for B.C. students
CBC News is reporting that a lack of accessible on-campus rapid testing is causing concern at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. Currently, neither university has a vaccine mandate, and anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 is not allowed to access on-campus rapid testing unless they have previously declared themselves unvaccinated or refused to disclose their vaccination status. The CBC spoke to Hannah Sullivan Facknitz, who said the lack of accessible on-campus rapid testing is affecting students with disabilities. They said that UBC has taken a “messy” ad hoc approach to providing support to those who have to self-isolate or those who are clinically vulnerable. She herself woke up one day experiencing symptoms, but said they could not risk using public transit to access the nearest testing site nearly an hour away or afford to pay out of pocket for an at-home test.
“In order to keep my job and my spot in my degree program, I had to walk into a classroom and take a risk that people who receive full efficacy from the vaccine did not have to take,” they said. “That’s what ableism is.”
They went on to say that the way UBC has communicated with disabled students has made it difficult to make informed decisions about their own health and how they go about accessing space at UBC. “I felt very much disregarded and discarded in a lot of ways.”
Cases on campus
MacEwan University is reporting one new case on its campus.
Four new cases have been reported at the University of Calgary. One case was reported at the downtown campus, one at Barrier Lake Field Station, one at Scurfield Hall and one at the Health Sciences Centre.
One new case has been reported at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton campus.
On Oct. 14, the region of Waterloo public health informed the University of Waterloo about two individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and who had visited the campus. The individuals are in self-isolation and officials have been in touch with all known close contacts..
The University of Ottawa is reporting four new cases on its campus.
One new case is being reported at the St. George campus of the University of Toronto.
McGill University has four new cases on its campus.
For the seven-day period ending Oct. 14, the University of Saskatchewan was informed of 11 positive COVID-19 cases involving members of the university community on and off campus.
October 13, 2021
U of Windsor announces ‘back to normal’ winter semester
The Windsor Star is reporting that the University of Windsor is planning to bring more students back to campus for the winter semester. The article stated that some programs will make a full return to in-person instruction while others will at least have a face-to-face component. “We’re banking for the majority of classes being face-to-face,” said Jess Dixon, a kinesiology professor who chairs the University of Windsor’s Return to Campus Action Group. “That includes lectures, as well as labs and seminars.”
According to the article, the university opened the fall semester last month with about 25 per cent of its student body on campus and the rest learning online due to the pandemic.
“We’re hoping to more than double that number on campus going into the winter semester,” Dr. Dixon said. “It’s all part of our graduated approach to bringing things back to normal on campus.”
Students have fundamentally changed their expectations of a higher education experience
According to a new poll done by KPMG, four in five students feel the pandemic has changed their expectations of a higher education experience and want a tertiary education that matches their digital lifestyle. KPMG surveyed 1,203 Canadian postsecondary students, aged 18-34 to get this data. According to those surveyed, 88 per cent expect their university to provide the kind of “easy to use and straightforward” digital customer service experience they expect in other walks of life and over 76 per cent believe the university of the future will bear little resemblance to today’s education institutions.
“Over the next decade, students will become even more diverse, digital, and deliberate in their decision making, putting pressure on higher education institutions to design and deliver a more personalized experience that encompasses the student as a learner, a digitally savvy person, and a customer,” said C.J. James, partner and national education practice leader at KPMG.
Other key findings included 71 per cent of respondents who called campus life “important” and said they were looking forward to returning to in-person classes (the survey was conducted in early September). Eighty-two per cent said they wished their higher education institution had a stronger focus on mental health and well-being.
SFU asks community to upload proof of vaccination
Last week, the provincial government in British Columbia announced that vaccinations would be mandatory for public service employees, which made it possible for postsecondary institutions to consider doing the same thing. On Oct. 7, in a message to students, staff and faculty, Catherine Dauvergne, vice-president academic and provost at Simon Fraser University announced that in addition to declaring their vaccination status, everyone at SFU must also upload proof of vaccination, but did not announce a vaccine mandate.
“We are closely monitoring our progress and will consider whether making vaccination mandatory for faculty and staff is required. We will make that determination based on our data, and will move forward, if required, once we have more information,” said Dr. Dauvergne.
Cases on campus
McMaster University has received notification of one confirmed COVID-19 case on campus. This case involves a student who was tested on Oct. 8 and was last on campus Oct. 6, in the Health Sciences Building.
A positive case has been reported at the University of Prince Edward Island. Contact tracing is currently being conducted.
MacEwan University is reporting one new case on its campus.
Nova Scotia Public Health is investigating confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Dalhousie University community. Based on their findings, there may have been low-risk community exposure at the Killam Library.
A confirmed case is also being investigated at Saint Mary’s University. Based on the findings of Nova Scotia Public Health, there may have been an exposure to COVID-19 in the Dockside Cafeteria, on Sept. 27-30 and Oct. 1. Public Health considers this to be a COVID precaution notification versus a COVID exposure notification.
One new case has been reported on the campus of the University of Guelph.
The University of Ottawa is reporting two new cases on its campus.
Three new cases have been reported by the University of Toronto. All new cases were reported at the St. George campus.
One new case has been reported at York University.
McGill University is reporting three new cases on its campus.
Twenty-four new positive cases are being reported at the University of Saskatchewan. These cases involve members of the university community on and off campus.
October 6, 2021
11 MRU students deregistered for not declaring vaccination status
The CBC is reporting that 11 students at Mount Royal University have been deregistered from classes after refusing to declare their vaccination status. The article also shares a story from one student who was apparently threatened with deregistration for weeks despite being enrolled only in online classes. She told the CBC she was confused because as far as she understood, she could opt out of declaring her status and the rapid testing that in-person learners would have to do when attending campus. However, she said she kept receiving emails from the school asking her to declare her status.
“They just kept resorting to saying that the public health order requires them to do so, but nowhere in the order does it say you need to declare if you’re vaccinated or not,” she said. “A vaccinated or unvaccinated person could choose to show a rapid test result, too, according to the public health order. But I’ve been getting these emails saying that if I do not declare my status, then I will be deregistered from my courses.”
In the end, the school admitted she was right: online students do not need to declare their vaccination status.
“Unvaccinated students who are registered only in online courses have an option to complete a form that waives the rapid testing requirement by agreeing not to attend campus in person for any reason,” the school said.
Dal researchers look at how COVID-19 affected the homeless
According to new research out of Dalhousie University, the pandemic has only intensified the ongoing struggles of those living without safe housing options. Global News spoke with Jeff Karabanow, a professor and associate director at Dal’s school of social work.
“One of our findings from the study was that the pandemic was a disaster but homelessness is also a disaster and it was a disaster way before the pandemic,” said Dr. Karabanow. According to the article, his study is a snapshot of the homelessness situation in Halifax and in Sydney, N.S. during the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic. A handful of Dal health researchers worked with homeless participants who shared their experiences from the moment the state of emergency was declared.
“The idea of the study was to also provide a roadmap,” said Dr. Karabanow. “Because we’re going to have more and more environmental disasters and so we need to have a way that we can get together very quickly to work on solutions.”
St. Francis Xavier reveals proof-of-vaccination plan
According to a recent statement, as of Oct. 4 members of the St. Francis Xavier University campus community must now show proof of vaccination status when attending events or activities that are open to the public on campus. This includes sporting events, attending theatre or concerts, attending public academic talks, and going to the art gallery.
However, students, faculty and staff will NOT have to share their vaccination status at activities and events that are not open to the public such as classes, dining in the meal hall, house or society meetings, intramural participation.
UNB closes library to the public
To ensure the health and safety of its campus population, the University of New Brunswick is asking students, faculty and staff to show proof that they are a member of the UNB community to enter any library on campus and to access in-person library services. As such, the UNB libraries are closed to members of the broader community until further notice.
Cases on campus
The University of Toronto is reporting three new cases at its St. George campus.
From Sept. 19 to 25, the University of Alberta was tracking 14 cases on its campus.
Three new cases have been identified at the University of Calgary. The first individual spent time at the Biological Sciences building. The second spent time at the Teaching, Research & Wellness building. The third went to Scurfield Hall, Education Classrooms, the basketball court and Jack Sympson Gym. Contact tracing is complete for all three cases.
There is one new reported COVID-19 infection at the University of Manitoba.
Six new cases are being reported at MacEwan University.
McGill University is reporting three new cases on its campus.
Some cases are being investigated at Dalhousie University. The local public health authority says there may have been low-risk community exposure at multiple campus locations. They will follow up directly with close contacts that are identified through its investigation.
The University of Saskatchewan is reporting seven COVID-19 infections involving members of the university community on and off campus.
October 4, 2021
Raucous street parties continue
Global News reported that a massive crowd gathered in the streets of Hamilton for an unauthorized, impromptu homecoming party after a McMaster University and University of Waterloo football game on Saturday.
Police closed some of the roads in the area and the Hamilton fire department was called to the scene after revellers flipped over a car. Paramedics also arrived, but no serious injuries were reported. According to police, the crowd grew to over 5,000 attendees by 2 p.m.
McMaster’s president, David Farrar, issued a statement on Sunday, apologizing to the community.
“McMaster students, and any others who chose to be part of the gathering of several thousand people in our community on Saturday, owe our neighbours, our emergency workers and every other student an apology for the disruptions, disrespect of property and disregard of those who live in our community,” he wrote. “On their behalf, I apologize for this behaviour, particularly by those who caused damage and put anyone at risk. Such actions are completely unacceptable.”
Dr. Farrar added that the university is cooperating fully with police and supporting their work in identifying those who participated in illegal activities. “We will use the Student Code of Conduct to sanction students who violated the Code’s tenets of behaviour,” he said.
A few hundred kilometres away, an estimated 2,000 people took over a street in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood after the University of Ottawa’s football team bested Carleton University in the annual Panda Game. The Ottawa Citizen reported that revellers trashed a stretch of the street and flipped a car. Residents in the area described the events as a “riot.”
According to one resident, people jumped on the roof of a car, flipped it over more than once, attempted to take the car apart and set the fuel tank on fire.
Ottawa paramedics transported seven people to hospital for alcohol intoxication and minor injuries. Police also reported that one person was assaulted.
In a statement, University of Ottawa president Jacques Frémont and vice-president, academic affairs, Jill Scott said they regret the damage and the fear the event caused residents.
“Out-of-control street parties are not a regular feature of life at uOttawa, and we do not intend for them to become one in the future,” the statement said. “We will work closely with the Ottawa Police Service, the city of Ottawa, student leaders and our civic and community partners to see they do not reoccur.”
According to the article, some who live on the affected street speculate that student revellers wanted their photos posted on Canadian Party Life, an Instagram account that showcases raucous street parties.
COVID-19 detected in wastewater at Western
The Western Gazette, Western University’s student newspaper, reported that there is evidence of COVID-19 in the wastewater of five residences — Medway-Sydenham Hall, Delaware Hall, Saugeen-Maitland Hall, Perth Hall and Essex Hall. In an email to students living in those residences, the university stated that there could be one or more cases of COVID-19 in the buildings.
“This finding, of a low viral load, is an early indication that one or more persons in the building may have contracted COVID-19,” the email said.
The university has asked all vaccinated students in these residences to monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms and for students who are not fully vaccinated yet (they must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12) to get tested immediately at a testing centre on campus.
Cases on campus
The Hamilton Spectator reported that local public health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont. According to the article, there were nine confirmed cases as of Sept. 29.
The university stated that students who tested positive were last in the academic building on Sept. 27 and that all affected students, who live on campus, are currently isolating.
Cape Breton University’s local public health authority is investigating a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the community. The university said the case may have caused an exposure on its campus, although public health has determined the exposure to be low risk for those who are fully vaccinated. The university is working with public health to notify anyone who may have been exposed to the virus on campus.