The University of Victoria will not reinstate a mask mandate on campus, despite urging from its senate.
In a vote Monday (March 28), the university’s board of governors turned down the senate’s recommendation, restating its position that masks are highly recommended but not mandatory.
The senate called a special meeting earlier in the month to address the issue, after UVic chose to drop its mandate along with the province on March 11.
“Dropping the mask mandate … fundamentally alters the learning and working environment overnight for immunocompromised students, staff, faculty and librarians, leaving them no time to seek accommodations or make alternative educational plans,” nine senate members wrote in their request for the special meeting.
It also increases the risk of disruptions during exam season if COVID cases rise as a result, the signees argued.
They urged the senate to vote to reinstate a mask mandate until the end of the term. On March 24, the 72-member senate did so, passing the matter on to the board of governors for approval.
But, in its March 28 vote, the 15-member board of governors chose to stick with the university’s initial decision.
UVic’s COVID response lead manager Rob Johns explained the university’s original choice in a memo to the senate March 18. He said it was in line with provincial guidelines, that recent variants of COVID are resulting in less severe illness, and that it is difficult for the university to enforce a mandate without provincial orders.
Johns noted, at the time, only two B.C. universities – the University of British Columbia and Kwantlen Polytechnic University – were choosing to continue mandates.
The board of governors also voted March 28 to request a legal opinion on the decision-making framework and jurisdiction around the recommendation from the senate. April 29 is UVic’s last day of winter term.
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