The vaccine requirements laid out in Dalhousie’s plan to return to in-person learning, which was released Jan. 14, are causing confusion and concern among the Dalhousie community.
A memo released in November said Dalhousie would be moving to a proof-of-full-vaccination requirement.
According to Janet Bryson, Dalhousie’s associate director of media relations, as we return to campus, all students, faculty and staff have to submit proof of full vaccination through Campus Check, unless they have accommodation. According to Dalhousie’s website, those who complied with twice-weekly testing in lieu of vaccination during the fall will be able to return to campus unvaccinated if they continue to test negative twice weekly. According to a November memo, 80 of the 400 people who identified themselves as unvaccinated submitted their tests consistently.
However, the university’s Campus Check vaccination requirements leave out many details about how they will enforce this policy and what warrants accommodation. The requirements list health, religion and more unspecified options as protected reasons for not getting vaccinated.
Dalhousie has announced that of all the students, staff and faculty returning to campus, 98.8 per cent of them have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite the reassurance of this number, some members of the Dalhousie community are confused and concerned about the vaccine guidelines.
Bioethicist raises concerns
Bioethicist and Dalhousie research professor Francoise Baylis is among members of the Dalhousie community confused by these shifting guidelines, raising concerns about how Dalhousie will enforce these policies, “I just don’t know how it’s going to be done,” said Baylis.
“I’m sitting here, as a person reading this [memo], saying, I don’t actually understand how the consequences will be acted upon,” said Baylis.
A memo on vaccination requirements from Dec. 8 said if students are not compliant with Campus Check requirements, a code of student conduct report will be filed, and students will be immediately banned from Dalhousie’s campuses until the investigation and code of conduct process is completed. But Baylis points out this is inconsistent with other information.
“In the abstract, that sounds great. But later on in this document, it also says your manager, supervisor, Dean, professor, et cetera, will not have access to your information, nor will you be asked to provide proof of vaccination or testing at building doors, classrooms or offices. So how do you put those two concepts together?” Said Baylis, referring to the Campus Check vaccination requirements.
“I’m a professor. I have no information about [students’ vaccine statuses]. So, how do I know if you show up if you’re supposed to be in my class or not?” Baylis said.
The policy lays out the potential for different consequences for faculty and students. While students could be banned from classes, under these new guidelines, faculty could lose employment.
According to Baylis, herself a contributor to national policy, the new vaccine policy is creating uncertainty.
“I was left with a number of questions [about the policy] to which I couldn’t find an answer on the web, or issues that I think are worth seeking clarity about, and that would be for the benefit of both students and faculty,” said Baylis.
Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) President Madeleine Stinson is concerned about the levels of student anxiety on campus because of a lack of information.
“We have some student groups across campus going to their programs or going to their faculties and saying, ‘You need to keep us more in the loop. We want to know what’s going on,’” said Stinson. Stinson said the DSU is hoping that senior leadership at the university will consider students’ concerns and anxiety.
Rafael Fecury, a second-year neuroscience student, is unsure about the twice-weekly testing option.
“Who is making sure that those tests are valid and who is looking over all this data to say that it’s approved or not, and how the university is going to track those students that are not vaccinated and not submitting their weekly tests?” said Fecury.
The Dalhousie administration has consistently refused interview requests from the Dalhousie Gazette for more information about their enforcement of the testing policy and vaccine requirements.
“I do feel like I would be uncomfortable knowing that people in my classroom, now that we are going to in-person, are unvaccinated,” Said Fecury.
Fecury is frustrated with unvaccinated students. “They think it’s a personal choice instead of a collective action,” said Fecury.
Mat Hebert, a second-year journalism student, also expressed frustration with students not completing Campus Check or getting vaccinated.
“Anyone who is opposed to stricter mandates surrounding the vaccine is not actually concerned with freedom,” Hebert said. “They have a fundamentally different view on what it means to partake in a society than people who are willing to just get vaccinated for the greater good of their community,” said Hebert.
These students mirror the sentiments of many others coming back to campus who have not been able to understand Dalhousie’s vaccination policy. Fecury is currently going back to campus to a 150-person lecture, as are many other students.
Stinson has seen this same uncertainty with many students she’s come into contact with through the DSU.
“I think the position that the majority of students are in is that a lot of people are feeling unsure about how safe it is to actually come back to campus and go to those big classes,” said Stinton.
Dalhousie declined an interview for this story and said all needed information is in the plan to return to in-person learning, issued Jan. 14.
There is no new information in this memo about how Dalhousie will enforce their guidelines.