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UBC to go ahead with in-person exams despite UVic's move to cancel

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VANCOUVER -

The University of British Columbia says it will go ahead with its exam schedule as is, despite the cancellation of in-person finals at other post-secondary institutions across the country due to COVID-19.

“At this time UBC is not considering shifting in-person exams to online. The issues faced by other universities are unique to them and are not being seen in our campus jurisdictions,” wrote university spokesperson Matthew Ramsey in a statement to CTV News.

Ramsey said UBC will continue to work closely with Vancouver Coastal Health, Interior Health and the Provincial Health Office to continue to ensure the safety of students and staff on all of its campuses.

Simon Fraser University also told CTV News on Monday they do not have any plans to cancel in-person exams.

“SFU takes direction and works closely with Public Health to monitor, evaluate and respond to changes in the pandemic and to ensure the continued safety of the university community,” said Kristin Linklater, SFU's executive director of communications and marketing in a statement. “At this time, we have no plans to shift in-person exams to an alternative format.”

The University of Victoria announced it was cancelling in-person exams Sunday night, following a cluster of new infections linked to several off-campus parties.

UVic acknowledged it was short notice for students, but said the decision was not made lightly.

“It is an anxiety inducing time of the year in any case, and this is sudden news to them,” said Susan Lewis, the acting vice-provost at UVic.

The university claims 90 per cent of its students are vaccinated and that there has been no transmission in the classroom, but said that the exam setting is more high risk.

Lewis noted exams often see "800 students coming into a gymnasium" together for hours at a time.

“These are students that haven't been taking courses together, they're coming from all parts of our campus, and then they're in there for three hours, then another group of 800 students come in, and then another,” explained Lewis.

Remaining exams may be moved online or switched to a take home exam, essay or another assignment.

Lewis said UVic is working with instructors to ensure a smooth transition.

“We wouldn't see students being penalized in any way. We want to move forward in a way that respects the health and safety of our community, and let students complete their programs in the degrees,” she told CTV News.

Last week, Island Health's top doctor said at least 30 cases had been detected among students.

Dr. Richard Stanwick said that the cluster was traced to two off-campus parties, held last weekend by business students and varsity athletes.

At the time, the university said it was adjusting exams for just those two groups.

"That can be frustrating to see so many people in our community gathered together in very close proximity. And as well I think the toughest part of all of that was managing a number of off campus people that were coming onto campus that aren't part of our community,” said Kane Kilbey, Associate Vice President of Human Resources at UVic.

Kilbey said students have done everything staff have asked them to keep the school community safe and hopes they’ll continue pandemic protocol through the holiday break.

“We're really confident that the measures that we have in place that have served as well at every stage of the pandemic will be effective moving forward, all of our data suggests it will continue to monitor the situation with Island health and public health,” said Kilbey.

Student, administrative, and support services will remain open for their usual exam-period hours as will research centres and labs, study spaces, and dining halls.

In-person social events are being cancelled or postponed and training for varsity sports has been suspended for now.

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Ian Holliday

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