Conflict arises amongst students and faculty with return of in-person classes
Students and faculty express their concerns as U of T announces new vaccination policy for all parties returning to campus.

Earlier last month, U of T announced that all students, staff, faculty, and anyone with an active UTORid must provide proof of vaccination upon returning to campus. Students and faculty must upload evidence of their vaccination on UCheck, a web portal for health screening and vaccination documentation. This recent announcement has led to protests, open letters, and concerns from a small number of U of T faculty and students.

Those who do not provide proof of vaccination will not be permitted to participate in in-person activities on any of U of T’s three campuses. However, the university will approve exemptions based on medical grounds or grounds for exemption protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code such as creed or religious belief. 

The Ontario Ministry of Health outlines only two reasons for medical exemption which are either a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or if myocarditis or pericarditis occurs after the first dose. Any individual who is not fully vaccinated or given an exemption must participate in a rapid antigen test which will be available for free. A negative Covid-19 test result must be uploaded to UCheck prior to arriving on campus.

Students among all three campuses appear to be somewhat divided regarding their notions toward this mandatory vaccination mandate. While the majority are in support, some consider it an infringement of their human rights. Twenty students at U of T have organized a stand against the vaccination policy and united with more than 80 other Ontario university students to start an open letter campaign. Several students that are part of the campaign are remaining anonymous.

In addition, U of T’s faculty association has forwarded an open letter to the university’s president, Meric Getler, stating the vaccination policy is “misleading” and “inadequate.” The letter also states that the enforced health and safety plan for the academic year does not set the standard for a safe return. The president of U of T’s faculty association, Terezia Zoric, expresses that the administration has rejected the association’s request for a meeting to discuss health and safety measures. Some faculty members were originally concerned that there was no system to validate vaccination statuses and that self-declaration without proof might make classrooms unsafe.

“Today they’re asking us to submit proof of vaccination online. Tomorrow we will be asked before each class and segregated into vaccinated and unvaccinated groups alike. Where does it end?” The Medium spoke with a first-year English student who has mixed feelings regarding the mandate and requested to remain anonymous. While he believes the vaccine is important, he worries that the rules could become “radical.”

On the other hand, students like Charlotte Man in the management program at UTM trust in the vaccine and the mandates. “I think that it’s probably safer having all of us being vaccinated and masked. The vaccine mandate is actually a good idea so that we all can protect ourselves.” 

Tenzin Pema, a life sciences student at the university also states, “I feel that having the vaccine mandatory was a great decision. I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel safer on campus knowing that vaccines are required.”

Unvaccinated students are voicing their concerns as they fear any individual can carry and spread the virus and that these mandates might escalate into more and more radical measures. While the mandate has caused controversy amongst U of T students, the university ensures that these newly implemented policies follow provincial guidelines and should make the campus safe for return. 

Earlier last month, U of T announced that all students, staff, faculty, and anyone with an active UTORid must provide proof of vaccination upon returning to campus. Students and faculty must upload evidence of their vaccination on UCheck, a web portal for health screening and vaccination documentation. This recent announcement has led to protests, open letters, and concerns from a small number of U of T faculty and students.

Those who do not provide proof of vaccination will not be permitted to participate in in-person activities on any of U of T’s three campuses. However, the university will approve exemptions based on medical grounds or grounds for exemption protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code such as creed or religious belief. 

The Ontario Ministry of Health outlines only two reasons for medical exemption which are either a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or if myocarditis or pericarditis occurs after the first dose. Any individual who is not fully vaccinated or given an exemption must participate in a rapid antigen test which will be available for free. A negative Covid-19 test result must be uploaded to UCheck prior to arriving on campus.

Students among all three campuses appear to be somewhat divided regarding their notions toward this mandatory vaccination mandate. While the majority are in support, some consider it an infringement of their human rights. Twenty students at U of T have organized a stand against the vaccination policy and united with more than 80 other Ontario university students to start an open letter campaign. Several students that are part of the campaign are remaining anonymous.

In addition, U of T’s faculty association has forwarded an open letter to the university’s president, Meric Getler, stating the vaccination policy is “misleading” and “inadequate.” The letter also states that the enforced health and safety plan for the academic year does not set the standard for a safe return. The president of U of T’s faculty association, Terezia Zoric, expresses that the administration has rejected the association’s request for a meeting to discuss health and safety measures. Some faculty members were originally concerned that there was no system to validate vaccination statuses and that self-declaration without proof might make classrooms unsafe.

“Today they’re asking us to submit proof of vaccination online. Tomorrow we will be asked before each class and segregated into vaccinated and unvaccinated groups alike. Where does it end?” The Medium spoke with a first-year English student who has mixed feelings regarding the mandate and requested to remain anonymous. While he believes the vaccine is important, he worries that the rules could become “radical.”

On the other hand, students like Charlotte Man in the management program at UTM trust in the vaccine and the mandates. “I think that it’s probably safer having all of us being vaccinated and masked. The vaccine mandate is actually a good idea so that we all can protect ourselves.” 

Tenzin Pema, a life sciences student at the university also states, “I feel that having the vaccine mandatory was a great decision. I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel safer on campus knowing that vaccines are required.”

Unvaccinated students are voicing their concerns as they fear any individual can carry and spread the virus and that these mandates might escalate into more and more radical measures. While the mandate has caused controversy amongst U of T students, the university ensures that these newly implemented policies follow provincial guidelines and should make the campus safe for return. 

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