Faculty union at Western University pushes for mandated vaccines come September

On Monday morning, Western University President Alan Shepard announced that mandatory vaccines would not be required for students living off campus. That decision is not sitting well with many faculty members who will face the students in a classroom on a daily basis.

"We are trying to get some clarity on how we can make it safe and how we can focus on the learning environment itself,” says the president of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), Nigmendra Narain.

On Monday, Shepard took an 'ask but do not demand' approach when it came to mandated vaccines for students living off campus.

"We are obviously encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and we feel that we have gone as far as we can go legally and that we are very comfortable with our position,” Shepard said in a media briefing.

Western is requiring students living in residence be vaccinated.

Narain says that same double-dose approach should apply for all eligible students, staff, faculty, librarians and archivists, while acknowledging that some may be exempt for medical or religious reasons.

“We as faculty work in the classroom, work on campus and the students also come to the same workplace in order to learn and we think it is important that everyone has a safe workplace and safe environment.”

Narain is pushing to overturn the decision, to ensure a permanent return to school come September.

“We are very worried that in the case of the Delta variant, mixed in with a possibility of a fourth wave, we would end up in class in September then have to move right back to an outbreak situation that we would like to avoid.”

Shepard says a plan is in place to confront any potential outbreaks head on, including a quick shift to online learning if necessary.

"We can do that again on short notice, I am not anticipating that we will need to do that…so far the vaccines are holding against all the variants and provided people are double vaccinated like we are asking them to be, we will have a very safe fall semester.”

Narain says switching to remote learning can be more easily avoided, if those on campus are fully vaccinated.