Post-Secondary Students Share New Barriers to On-Campus Learning
Getting back to campus, Canadian post-secondary students are facing new COVID-19 vaccination policies – many of which have only been announced or confirmed by school officials in recent weeks.
Policies vary by institution, ranging from full warrants requiring verified proof of vaccination to rapid campus-wide testing with exemptions for those fully vaccinated. And, what greets students as they walk to their classes and labs also differs by school.
While some systems are praised for the safe return of students and staff to campus, others leave questions about how the new policies are being enforced.
Here’s what some students shared with CBC News about the new steps needed to get to campus in person this year.
Green means go
The University of Winnipeg has a simple process in place for granting students, faculty and staff access to the school, says Kirt Hayer, president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association.
WATCH | “Very Large Scale Verification”, color coded stickers:
At the start of the school year, the university opened a large center where students and staff brought their school identity card and proof of vaccination. Many flashed Manitoba’s new COVID-19 vaccination cards or displayed a QR code on their smartphones, but staff members were also willing to accept other documents, Hayer noted. They kept references handy showing what proof of vaccination looks like in other Canadian jurisdictions or international regions.
Once verified, a green sticker was then affixed to a person’s school ID card, granting them full access to campus. People who were partially vaccinated or without proof of full vaccination received an orange sticker giving access until October 15. After this date, only those with green stickers will be allowed on campus. People not vaccinated due to medical exemptions must complete a special request.
“It was a very simple process… It takes less than 30 seconds,” said Hayer, who volunteered at the testing center as school began.
“To access campus, you show your sticker to a security guard and they will let you in if you have a sticker. And if you don’t have a sticker, they deny you access to campus.”
With guards checking IDs at a limited number of places people can enter, Hayer believes the system has so far been a safe way to make the campus safer for those returning. About 40% of classes are held in person, he said.
The students “want to stay safe and they don’t want another epidemic and classes cut off,” he said.
“This is a good initiative for students to have the on-campus experience they really want.”
There is an application for that
At Seneca College in Toronto, the school’s announcement in mid-June of a strict on-campus vaccination mandate meant officials had the summer to tweak logistics. The school’s technology plan is based on a new smartphone app that includes both proof of vaccination verification as well as a mandatory daily health check.
This app ties into Seneca’s existing student and staff identification system, explained Aidan D’Souza, a student mentor who also volunteered at the start of the term to guide his peers through the new process.
WATCH | A Seneca student explains how students are entering campus this fall:
Once students submit their proof of vaccination in the app and receive approval from a Seneca Secure Team, they then use it for a daily health check before coming to campus. The app is tied to a student ID card that they must scan at one of the many new kiosks located at a few designated entrances on campus, D’Souza said. Security guards stationed at these gates monitor the entrance scanning process.
“We have student ambassadors all over our entrances for support,” he said. The system experienced some glitches, he noted.
“It’s quick, easy. It’s my second week on campus and a lot of the students are adjusting to the new routine.”
D’Souza says he has heard a lot of positive feedback from his classmates about the school’s mandatory vaccination policy and personally also appreciates some of the other new changes to campus life during the pandemic, such as the option of curbside pickup at the bookstore or ordering takeout to avoid queuing in the cafeteria area.
“The students are just happy to be back on campus and getting back to a normal routine.”
Rely on “personal responsibility”
Starting her freshman year at the University of Ottawa and moving into residence just four days before the start of the fall semester, Madeline Fleming quickly ran into a problem with the school’s new vaccination policy.
Obliged to present proof of vaccination as of September 1, she did so and received an “approved” message. A few days later however, an email arrived stating that she was not allowed to stay in residence due to the absence of vaccination records. She quickly resubmitted and crossed her fingers, her information is now correctly confirmed.
WATCH | Mandatory measures, but who controls?
The U of O has also asked students to complete an online health screening form every day, but beyond seeing a few posted signs serving as reminders, Fleming wonders how mandatory this policy is: it doesn’t haven’t noticed a case where someone is checking to see if the students have finished it.
“They’re going at it from a personal accountability standpoint,” Fleming said. “[School officials] claim through their emails and messages that they have to apply it and that it is mandatory. However, on campus there is no physical application whatsoever. ”
The U of O did not respond to CBC’s request for comment on its system.
That someone’s control is indeed becoming a sticking point, even in large institutions directly integrated into city neighborhoods and more likely to have a myriad of entry points.
For example, at the University of Toronto – whose main campus spans much of downtown Toronto – everyone must be vaccinated, upload proof of it, and also perform a daily health exam. in its dedicated online system UCheck in order to be able to participate. Campus.
Members of the community “may be asked to show that they have met” these requirements, according to a statement by a spokesperson for the University of Toronto. The university declined an interview.
However, some students and faculty have pointed out that inconsistent verification – or the lack of it, essentially relying on an honor system – is a major concern.
“It’s very distressing since other key measures – including occupancy limits and physical distancing – have been removed,” Terezia Zoric, president of the Association of Professors at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.
“This safety performance with little real safety is another broken promise.”