USC Response to Transparency and Communication by Western Administration, and Western’s August 2022 COVID-19 Policy
Timeline of Events:
August 22: Western released an updated mask and vaccination policy to come into effect September 1.
August 24: A motion was brought to the USC Council to oppose the mask mandate.
August 25-30: USC Councillors conducted consultations with students in their faculties to gather feedback and opinions in regards to this motion and the policy.
August 31: The USC Council voted against the motions to oppose mask and vaccine mandates, and voted in favour of a motion pertaining to the transparency and communication by Western administration.
Council meeting minutes will be publicly available after approval from Council in September.
We’ve been hearing from students that they are feeling ill-informed as to why the mandates have been introduced. Western administration has not provided sufficient information explaining their consultations, the scientific evidence that supports their decision, and how they ultimately came to their decision.
We as the USC have an obligation to support students and advocate on their behalf to Western administration on Western-related events, policies and initiatives.
In response to this clause from the motion: Be it resolved, that the USC releases a statement outlining why the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is necessary, given the direction of health experts, such as Dr. Mike Silverman.
In the FAQ response to “Why is Western continuing with a vaccination policy?”, Western provided this answer: Our approach is informed by consultation with our medical experts and the Western community to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of future waves of COVID-19 – and to offer a consistent, positive on-campus experience for the coming year.
This is not enough. Students deserve to understand the reasoning behind this decision. Health experts are providing inconsistent direction and we want to know why Western administration landed on this policy when it differs from COVID-19 policies in many Canadian post-secondary institutions. The USC should not have to be responsible for outlining the health and safety guidelines outlined by the university; that accountability lies with Western administration.
In response to this clause from the motion: Be it further resolved, that the USC releases a statement highlighting/condemning the lack of transparency and consideration that Western administration put into this policy decision.
Students are frustrated with the lack of transparency from Western administration when it comes to this policy. We want, and deserve, to know how this decision was made, who was involved in the decision-making process, and the why behind the decision.
In general, the policy was confusing, lengthy, and important information (such as timelines, exemption, and exceptions) was hidden in an FAQ page that was not easily accessible. Western administration needs to communicate with students clearly, and ensure that any accommodations are available straightforwardly to students
Students are the largest part of the campus community and it is essential that our voices are heard by Western administration when it comes to decisions that affect every one of us. We offer an important perspective to the conversation and should be thoroughly consulted in the future before policies are created or updated.
In response to this clause from the motion: Be it resolved, that the USC releases a statement that encourages Western administration to extend the grace period to 30 days from the day the policy was released. This would mean that students in residence would have until Wednesday, September 21, 2022 in order to obtain full vaccination status (3 doses, as outlined by Western)
The USC Council voted not to oppose the mask and vaccination mandates, meaning that the student community does not have a unified perspective on these mandates. However, the concern shared among all students was with the timeliness of this announcement, and the way in which it was communicated. We heard consistently from students that the announcement came too late, which makes it difficult for them to get their booster vaccine dose if they have not done so already.
This makes it especially difficult for students moving into residence, who are required to have three vaccine doses by the time they move in. We strongly encourage Western administration to extend the grace period to receive the third dose to 30 days from the day the policy was released. This would mean that students in residence would have until Wednesday, September 21, 2022 in order to obtain their third dose, alleviating stress students are facing given the tight timeline between the policy announcement and move-in dates.
Students need to know that their voices are heard, that our perspectives are valuable, and that our university cares about us. Western administration needs to consult with students when making decisions that affect the student body at large, and be accountable for providing clear and transparent communication with their students.