U of W Faculty Association calls for campus vaccination requirement

Members of the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association voted overwhelmingly Monday to call on their employer to institute a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students and staff engaged in on-campus activities.

During a two-hour meeting, the union recorded 86 members in favour, three opposed and one abstention on a vote regarding immunization status.

The motion recognizes people with medical conditions should be exempt from a vaccine mandate and international students newly arriving to Winnipeg should be given a science-based grace period.

“Our message to the university administration is: not only is this a way to have a safe campus, have a campus that hopefully will have no interruptions to the academic year because of COVID, and contribute to making the downtown community safe — but it is also an opportunity to be a leader,” said Peter Miller, president of the faculty association.

No post-secondary institute in Western Canada has yet to announce it will require its community members to be fully immunized to enter buildings or participate in campus activities.

In Ontario, however, both Seneca College in Toronto and the University of Ottawa have announced vaccine mandates on their campuses.

On Tuesday, uOttawa announced it would require its students, staff and faculty, and campus visitors, to be fully immunized, citing the continued risk posed by COVID-19 and highly infectious variants. Everyone involved is required to have at least one dose by Sept. 7.

Miller said academics in Winnipeg expressed support Monday to mandate vaccines in their workplace both to protect the population that cannot be immunized — in particular, children under 12 — and out of concern thousands of people will be on campus this fall.

An estimated 6,000 students, in addition to school employees, will come back to U of W in the coming weeks, he added, noting the largest class sizes will include as many as 120 students.

Also Monday, faculty members approved motions to recommend U of W extend its mask mandate for the entirety of the fall term and allow educators who wish to switch to remote learning during the upcoming session be permitted to do so.

In an email Tuesday, a spokesperson for the U of W indicated the school is following provincial guidance and outlined its “robust safety plan,” which is made up of a mask mandate, enhanced ventilation and ramped up cleaning.

“We understand that the faculty association is discussing these topics and their views will be taken into consideration as we ramp up for a successful resumption of in-person learning this fall,” said Kevin Rosen, executive director of marketing and communications.

The president of U of W’s students association did not respond to a request for comment before deadline Tuesday.