Saskatoon

University of Sask. faculty want vaccine requirement for those returning to campus

Allison Muri, chair of the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association and a professor at the school, says protecting the campus community would help protect the province as a whole.

Motion was passed by faculty association earlier this week

The University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association says vaccination would be another layer of protection as people return to a potentially crowded campus. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Ahead of a potential return to in-class learning this fall, professors at the University of Saskatchewan are calling for anyone coming back to campus this year to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Earlier this week, the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association passed a motion calling for those returning to be vaccinated unless medically exempt.

It's important there's another layer of protection as people return to the potentially crowded campus, says Allison Muri, the association's chair.

"There's been, as you know, anti-vaxxer demonstrations in Saskatoon. We're among the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country. Vaccination rollout is lagging," said Muri, who is also a professor at the university's Department of English.

"There's so many reasons why this return to campus is not really safe without having everyone vaccinated." 

She says as more young people are hospitalized and coronavirus variants of concern are detected in the province, the faculty association worries about adequate ventilation on campus and the ability for people to physically distance.

Muri hopes university administration joins the association in its call, saying it's an opportunity for the university to be a leader in the province and Canada. Many larger institutions in the U.S. have implemented similar policies, she said. 

CBC reached out to the University of Saskatchewan and the Ministry of Health for comment on the call from the association on Saturday, but a response was not immediately received.

University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association chair Allison Muri says there are concerns among membership about things like physical distancing and proper ventilation on campus. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Muri says keeping the campus community safe will help protect the city and province as a whole, as her association alone represents more than 1,000 faculty members.

"We have students coming in from all over, we have a very large population, and we're not limited, of course, to the campus," she said.

"All of us interact daily with people working and living in the city, so making sure all of our campus community is vaccinated will certainly, I believe, help stop the spread outside of campus." 

The University of Saskatchewan has yet to announce its plans for the in-class learning for the upcoming fall term.

However, a post on the university's website indicated it's anticipating "a significant increase of in-person, on-campus instruction for the 2021 fall term."

Some professors at the school says they're ready to return to campus, and their students are also eager to return. 

"I just finished teaching online and was actually really impressed with the resiliency of my students," said Jim Clifford, an associate professor at the U of S department of history.

"But I know from hearing and talking to them, they're really desperate to get back into the classroom."

Since he could be teaching hundreds of students daily and interacting with potentially thousands of people as he passes through the halls, cafeterias and various spaces at the U of S, he says the extra layer of protection of vaccination is needed. 

"It's a perfect superspreader site if we don't have that safety provided by full vaccination."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Covering everything and anything for CBC Saskatoon, Morgan is a journalist interested in municipal and provincial affairs, Canadian crime and Canadian politics. Familiar with a variety of beats, Morgan has worked as a staff reporter for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Metro Calgary, Metro Saskatoon and the Fort McMurray Today and now works for CBC in Saskatoon.

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