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UBC student union calls for stricter COVID-19 measures ahead of September return

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The UBC Alma Mater Society has urged the university to tighten up COVID-19 measures ahead of its return of in-person learning this fall.

As it currently stands, students living in on-campus residences will not be required to be vaccinated, and masks will not be mandatory in indoor spaces like lecture halls.

The leaders of the AMS, which represents the more than 56,000 students who are currently enrolled at UBC, have penned a letter to UBC executives and the board of directors, calling on them to step up.

In the letter, AMS president Cole Evans and vice president Eshana Bhangu urge the university’s leaders to go beyond the province’s basic COVID-19 guidance.

“There is no doubt that the university is aligned with the public health office,” the letter reads. “There is also no doubt that it is unacceptable for UBC, an institution that prides itself as a leader across the country, to only be doing the bare minimum in ensuring the safety and security of its students, staff and faculty.”

In 2020, UBC mandated masks on campus before B.C. health officials did, but now the university says it will be aligned with provincial guidance moving forward.

"There are no vaccines in Canada that are mandatory, and it's been recommended that post-secondary institutions don’t introduce prevention measures that are different from those recommended by the provincial health officer,” said Matthew Ramsey, UBC’s director of university affairs.

“We are very much recommending and encouraging members of our community to get the vaccine,” Ramsey added. “That includes students, faculty and staff, but we are not making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.”

In an interview with CTV News Vancouver, Bhanghu said it’s discouraging that the school, which was once the leader on COVID-19 mandates, has now taken a back seat.

"It's disappointing that we're falling behind, and students just aren't feeling comfortable," Bhanghu said.

She said a survey of AMS members found that 82 per cent of the students living in residence would like to see vaccinations be mandatory, a policy other large Canadian schools – including the University of Toronto and Ryerson University – have put in place.

Bhangu added that it’s not just students who are concerned.

"It's disappointing to see that they continuously fall back on their current plans as they exist now instead of seriously engaging with the community,” she said. “Community members, students and faculty have shown this is something they deeply care about, and are united on.”

The University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University have also declined to make vaccinations mandatory. 

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