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University of Toronto faculty say COVID-19 vaccine policy is 'inadequate' and 'misleading'

A person walks past the University of Toronto campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
A person walks past the University of Toronto campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
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TORONTO -

University of Toronto faculty are criticizing the administration over a vaccination policy that they say “does little to ensure a safe return” to the classroom.

The school announced on Wednesday that it would require anyone attending its campuses in the fall to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit a negative test result at least 72 hours prior to their visit.

The policy, however, relies on students and staff to self-report their vaccination status for the most part and does not require that they upload documentation as proof.

In an open letter sent to university president Meric Gertler on Thursday, U of T’s faculty association said that is simply not good enough.

“The communication was nothing more than a repackaging of the same policy that the Administration acknowledged, as late as last week, does not constitute a vaccine mandate,” the letter states.

“With very few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of those on campus are still only required to self-declare their vaccination status without any obligation to show proof. This is especially vexing because there is already a mechanism in place for U of T students living in residence to upload proof of vaccination.”

Numerous post-secondary intuitions have introduced mandatory vaccine policies so far this week.

Some schools, such as Western University and Carleton University, are requiring that students and faculty submit proof that they have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine while others like Ryerson University are merely encouraging students and faculty to get vaccinated and are not making it a requirement at this time.

In their letter, the faculty association said that U of T’s vaccination policy is “inadequate” and “misleading.”

They also took issue with the school’s overall health and safety plan for the fall, which they said fails to set “minimum standards for a safe return” to the classroom.

As an example, they said that staff are “deeply concerned” about being “pressured” to teach in full capacity classrooms “without any physical distancing or verified ventilation.”

“The stakes are so high that simply putting out nice sounding words, that time is over,” Terezia Zoric, who is the president of U of T’s faculty association, told CP24 on Friday morning. “People want to know that they can trust the institutions where they're being asked to work, learn, or study.”

Faculty push for meeting over health and safety measures

The University of Toronto is taking a number of precautions as part of the resumption of many in-person classes, including the mandatory wearing of masks indoors and requiring anyone visiting campus to complete a self-assessment each day prior to their arrival.

Gertler has also pledged to “take additional measures if conditions change in the fall and winter ahead.”

Zoric, however, said that the administration has so far refused to meet with the faculty association to discuss health and safety measures and did not reach out prior to announcing its vaccine policy.

“I think given that we're really just on the verge of a fourth wave and that universities bring people from across the GTA onto their campuses it (U of T) really has no alternative but to step forward or it's going to continue to get the terrible press it's getting over this non-announcement, this new requirement that's neither new nor a requirement,” she said.

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