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COVID-19 protocols – a mixed bag of approaches for the new academic year

As post-secondary institutions start a third pandemic-era school year, many academic staff associations are advocating for a return to COVID-19 safety protocols.

The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association – the union representing faculty at Western University – endorsed the administration’s decision to implement masking in instructional spaces, and encouraged everyone to mask everywhere indoors where  social distancing is not possible. The University also imposed a booster vaccine requirement that drew mixed reactions from students, some of whom have protested the mandate. 

At Carleton University, the academic staff association has urged the university to reinstate masking and/or vaccine mandates. CUPE local 4600, which represents the university’s  teaching assistants, research assistants, and contract instructors filed a grievance last week to push the administration to reinstate its mandatory masking policy.

Across the country, institutions are adopting a patchwork of different approaches. The  University of Manitoba, for instance, has mandated indoor masking measures but in the same city  the University of Winnipeg has dropped the masking requirement – despite strong support from the staff association for keeping the mandate. According to the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations, all Manitoba public universities should require masking on campus because the scientific evidence shows that masking saves lives.

In Nova Scotia, some universities such as St. Francis Xavier University, will require masking in all educational areas, while others such as the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design will not require masking.

Saskatchewan’s main post-secondary institutions will not require masking and proof of vaccination when students and academic staff return to campus.