Colleges, universities urge students to be 'exemplary' as classes resume

Ottawa's post-secondary institutions are urging students attending fall classes to abide by all the COVID-19 rules — both on campus and out in the community.

Police promising to issue fines for 'unsafe and unhealthy' parties

A University of Ottawa student walks through campus Tuesday. While post-secondary campuses will be sparsely populated this fall, local colleges and universities are urging those students who are going back to obey all the rules around COVID-19. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Ottawa's colleges and universities are urging students attending fall classes to abide by all the COVID-19 rules — both on campus and out in the community.

Representatives from the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College and Collège La Cité all took part in an online news conference Wednesday, sharing guidance for new and returning students while also reminding them what could happen if they don't act appropriately.

"We do insist that students behave responsibility on campus, but also outside of campus," said Jacques Frémont, president of the University of Ottawa.

"They're a member of the community 24 hours a day, and it will be very important that their behaviour is exemplary."

While the COVID-19 pandemic has diminished the population of post-secondary campuses across Canada, they won't be completely desolate.

Carleton University president Benoit-Antoine Bacon said it would be "strange" to only have about 2,000 people on campus this fall — including some 1,200 students in residence — rather than the normal 35,000.

Everyone on campus will get kits containing hand sanitizer and masks, Bacon said, just one part of a plan that will be shared "very intensively" with all members of the Carleton community.

"The health and safety of our community is absolutely our very top priority. We've said this since the very beginning," he said.

'Moral call'

The U of O is expecting to have about 3,000 students on campus over the course of a typical week, Frémont said.

Those students have a "moral call" to follow the COVID-19 rules, he said, particularly while enjoying themselves outside the university environment.

"We don't have jurisdiction for outside campus activities, so we will have to rely more on the public health [unit] and the various authorities," he said.

"But we do insist there's a responsibility for the future leaders of society, our students, to understand the gravity of the situation."

That responsibility includes not hosting the usual massive back-to-school parties, as Ontario limits indoor gatherings to 50 people and outdoor gatherings to 100 — and even then, guests would have to wear masks and physically distance.

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said Wednesday that both post-secondary students and people living near local campuses should see more police and bylaw officers out enforcing the rules.

"This includes [at] events on campus and off campus, house parties and private parties," Sloly said. "Police and Ottawa bylaw can issue fines up to $1,000, and we will do so if we discover large, unsafe and unhealthy parties."

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