TORONTO — An Ontario university says it will not allow students who normally learn in-person to take part in online courses this fall if they have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to Wilfrid Laurier University’s latest COVID-19 vaccination policy, students are required to disclose their vaccination status by Oct. 8. Those who refuse to do so, as well as students who do not get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, could face the following consequences:
• Being unable to attend Laurier’s campuses or locations
• Having access to MyLearningSpace suspended for fall term courses
• De-registration from fall in-person courses
• Being unable to take part in winter-term courses, since all students are expected to be on campus for winter term 2022
Students who do not plan on getting the vaccine should contact their academic advisors, the university says.
Laurier added it is using the fall semester as a “transition term,” and that students taking online courses at that time will still be required to be fully vaccinated before in-person learning returns in the winter.
There is an exception for students enrolled in fully online degree programs, who are not required to attend campus at any time and do not plan to visit campus for any other reason. Those students do not have to upload their vaccination status.
When asked for a statement, a spokesperson said the university is following the directive of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health in creating a vaccination policy for the institution.
No further explanation was provided for why students learning remotely would have to be fully vaccinated.
“In consultation with public health experts, we believe that vaccines are critical to the health of our campus community,” Julie Kalbfleisch, interim director of communications and issue management, said in a statement. “In addition to vaccines, other public health and university health and safety measures such as masking and adhering to gathering limits, will go a long way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 with will allow us to move forward as a community.”
The University of Toronto, Ontario’s largest postsecondary facility with three separate campuses across the GTA, is simply asking that students who attend campus in-person be fully vaccinated. There is no mention of online courses being impacted by the policy.
York University, which has the second largest student population in the province, has a similar policy. After Oct. 19, anyone who is not fully vaccinated with two doses will not be allowed on campus. Those students are being urged to get the shot or seek online alternatives.
A spokesperson for the Minister of Colleges and Universities said that while their government directed high-risk settings to implement COVID-19 vaccination policies, colleges and universities are “autonomous legal entities fully responsible for both academic and administrative matters.”
“They are responsible for their own compliance and implementation of public health measures.”
A letter sent by the council of Ontario medical officers to university presidents outlines on Aug. 24 outlines the requirements that must be met in a vaccination policy. It calls for full vaccination of all individuals on campus, with the “rare exception of those individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to permitted exemptions.”
Those with an exemption or a first dose—who are awaiting a second—must adhere to rapid testing.
There is no mention of mandatory vaccinations for those who are not stepping on campus.
A petition was launched on Thursday calling on the university to cancel its mandatory vaccination policy, arguing that the establishment has taken the rights of students to choose their education.
“They made this announcement less than two weeks before requiring online students to be vaccinated, and right after the deadline to receive a majority of tuition back for the semester,” the petition says. “They are offering no alternative to getting the vaccine.”
The petition has just over 200 signatures.
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