Faculty at U of C calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines on campus

Some professors at the University of Calgary want the post secondary to make COVID-19 vaccines a requirement as students return to campus in person in September.

Last week, economics professor Aidan Hollis posted an open letter on Twitter directed at the president of the University of Calgary saying mandatory vaccines would make campus safer for everyone.

The letter is receiving support from other members of faculty especially with the provinces recent' announcement that COVID-19 isolation requirements and routine testing are ending this month.

“I think we would all feel more secure if we knew that the students in our classrooms are vaccinated,” said Lisa Young, professor, school of public policy. “It’s really important to me that students in my classroom feel safe in all kinds of ways.”

Young said she plans to have a note outside her office informing students she is fully vaccinated and fully vaccinated students are welcome. If not, they have to wear masks, or have conversations over the phone or Zoom.

“A lot of what we’re going to have to do in the fall is to rely on everybody’s good will and willingness to keep one another safe and keep one another feeling safe.”

The University of Calgary said it supports vaccinations and will offer medical information on campus to address vaccine hesitancy, but it's not a requirement.

“In Alberta, it is not currently possible to require vaccines to attend university or insist on knowing vaccine status of individuals. However, we emphatically support the value of vaccines and the importance of vaccination,” said Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor, University of Calgary.

The school said it has a task force developing a preparedness plan for the fall term if a new wave were to materialize.

The province said it encourages all eligible Albertans to get their first and second doses.

“That being said, we respect the right of individuals to choose to get the vaccine and will not be requiring post-secondary institutions in Alberta to mandate vaccinations on campus,” said Taylor Hides, press secretary, office of the minister of advanced education.

Some faculty members say they are waiting for the U of C to release its safety plan.

“I think people are really looking to the universities to come up with a plan to protect everyone in the fall given that the province will be withdrawing most of their public health measures,” said Lorian Hardcastle, who's an associate professor at the faculty of law and Cumming School of Medicine.

Hardcastle said she supports having some public health measures and says vaccinations may be easiest path instead of trying to enforce masks or changing course schedules to allow for distancing.

But she said the legality around mandating vaccines is complicated.

“Under provincial human rights law, the university has the obligation to accommodate people who can’t get vaccinated due to medical reasons.”

Hardcastle said its unfortunate the province didn’t give post secondary institutions more time to work through issues and come up with their own safety plans with the start of school a month away.

Currently one post-secondary school in Canada, Seneca College in Toronto, requires vaccines for students.