Editorial: Concordia’s administration is endangering students, staff, and faculty by not providing the necessary measures for a safe return to campus

Concordia fails to provide adequate safety measures for the return to in-person learning, angering anew its faculty members and student body. Graphic Carl Bindman

Bolstered by the highly infectious Omicron variant, Quebec’s number of COVID-19 cases is now higher than last fall’s in-person semester.

Despite this, Concordia’s administration has refused to increase safety measures to accommodate another in-person semester for winter 2022. This stubbornness has persisted in spite of widespread demands by the Concordia Student Union, Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia, and the Concordia University Faculty Association, among many others. These ad hoc groups have urged Concordia’s administration to implement stricter measures in various open letters addressed to the university.

Despite these demands, Concordia’s Environmental Health and Safety unit has confirmed the university will not make N95 masks available to students. This decision was made despite Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam’s recommendation to pick the aforementioned over procedural masks. Furthermore, research has proven their greater capacity to filter out the virus.

The university’s blatant disregard for more effective safety measures has forced organizations such as TRAC to consider purchasing its own stockpile of N95/KN95 masks. This chilling behaviour by the university communicates a simple message to students and staff: if you want to participate in school, your safety will be in your own hands. 

Equally egregious is the university’s continued insistence on not requiring proof of vaccination for participation in all campus activities. Though 85 per cent of the 18-35 age bracket of Quebec’s population have received two doses, this tolerance still leaves an unnecessary margin of error for infection on campus. Ultimately, us students will have to settle with not knowing whether the people crammed next to us in poorly distanced classes are vaccinated or not. 

Worse still, lack of any accommodations for sick students could force many to attend class when they should be resting and isolating. As it stands, professors will not be mandated to provide their class materials online to absent students, and there remains no word on whether a hybrid option of learning will be provided. This not only puts an unnecessary mental and physical strain on these students, it places our entire community at risk of further infection.

Beyond casting the health of all students into doubt, the university’s lack of a response ensures that an in-person return to campus will have an inequitable impact on certain students. Left with no accommodations for a fully hybrid or online semester, immunocompromised students will inevitably be forced to make potentially dangerous decisions between their health and education. This level of negligence towards vulnerable students is not only disheartening; it feels like a cruel joke.  

Premier François Legault has provided universities and CEGEPS a transitional period to in person classes. Why isn’t Concordia taking advantage of this extra time to ensure the safest return possible? Why does it insist on such a soft approach when so much evidence points to the need for higher safety standards? The unfortunate, yet simple conclusion is that the university does not care about the health and safety concerns of those working and studying within its walls. 

Concordia needs to stop ignoring students, the CSU, and staff organizations as we collectively take on this wave together. Once again, it looks like the university will fail utterly in its capacity to provide health and safety to its student body.