Throughout the summer, the APUO received numerous messages from members about the Central Administration’s COVID-19 safety plans for the Fall 2022 term. Chief among these were concerns and questions pertaining to: (i) the lack of consultation and communication about the measures to be taken to ensure a safe return to campus; (ii) how immunocompromised members will be accommodated; and (iii) the protocols members are expected to follow with regard to their teaching responsibilities if/when exposed to COVID-19.
During the third week of August, the APUO Executive Committee met with its representatives who sit on the University Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee and on some Functional Occupational Health and Safety Committees, and with members of APUO Disability Justice Working Group. In these meetings, the Executive was presented with COVID-19 safety recommendations for the return to campus.
The APUO Executive Committee supports the following recommendations, that were forwarded to the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs, Jill Scott, on August 24, 2022:
- A return to collegial decision-making with regard to health and safety through the University’s Joint Health and Safety Committees where, according to the relevant Ontario legislation, such responsibility rests.
- That the Central Administration mandate the wearing of masks in common spaces on campus until such time as the R-value for COVID-19 in the Ottawa region is less than 1, the concentration of COVID-19 in wastewater samples from the Ottawa region is reduced, regional hospitals have more capacity, and children under age 5 have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.
- The university provide, at minimum, KN95 masks, and preferably, N95 masks, particularly in programs where educational activities require close contact.
We were dismayed by the Central Administration’s decision to publish its COVID Safety Plan for the Fall 2022 Term 24 hours after receiving our August 24, 2022 communication and ahead of a meeting with the APUO scheduled for September 1, 2022. The Central Administration’s unilateral action marks yet another example of the ongoing erosion of collegial governance and collaborative decision-making on our campus.
At the September 1, 2022 meeting, members of the APUO Disability Justice Working Group presented their recommendations. In line with the measures already in place at Western University, Wilfrid Laurier University and Brock University, the APUO re-iterated its call for mandatory masking in all common spaces and presented a Letter of Understanding pertaining to implementing measures to reduce the steps and time required to approve sick leaves and accommodations.
We will provide updates on these matters in the near future.