In a reversal of course, U of T has announced that all students, faculty, and staff will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or submit to a twice weekly rapid screening program.
Under the previous policy, which was announced as a “vaccine requirement”, only students living in residence or participating in high risk activities such as sports and music would have to show proof of vaccination. Other students would be asked to self-declare their vaccine status and submit to twice weekly testing if unvaccinated.
Following the announcement of the previous policy, campus unions criticized the fact that proof of vaccination was not required and called on U of T to require proof of vaccination from anyone visiting campus. The University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) criticized the wording of U of T’s original vaccine requirement, calling it “misleading” and criticizing it for being based on a mechanism of self-declaration.
Now, community members will have to provide proof of full vaccination, or proof of a negative test result if an individual is unvaccinated or they do not provide proof.
The change follows a new vaccination policy released by the province which mandates that vaccination policies in “high-risk settings”, such as postsecondary institutions, must require proof of full vaccination from all their members, a medical reason for being unvaccinated, or “completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.” The policy also requires those who do not show proof of full vaccination to submit to regular COVID-19 testing. In a press release from the province, this policy is described as similar to the policy currently in place in long-term care homes.
A message from Acting Vice-President & Provost Trevor Young and Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture Kelly Hannah-Moffat notes that the university is “finalizing [their] own strategy” following the announcement of the province’s new policy, adding that more details will be available soon.
In an email to The Varsity, a spokesperson for the university wrote that the university has consulted with U of T public health experts, students, student societies, and the Provost’s Undergraduate Student Advisory Group while creating the plan for the fall semester. The spokesperson added that divisions and instructors will all be considering student concerns as they plan for the return to classes in the fall, and the university may consider adding more hybrid class options.
Response from the UTFA
In an email to The Varsity, UTFA President Terezia Zorić wrote that the UTFA is happy that the university is now requiring proof of vaccination, attributing the change in part to advocacy from the UTFA and the UTSU. However, Zorić added that they do not believe vaccines are sufficient to prevent the spread of the Delta variant and wrote that a “multi-layered approach” is necessary.
“[The] UTFA continues to have serious concerns about the University’s re-opening plans,” wrote Zorić.
Zorić pointed to the Health and Safety Checklist for University Re-opening, a document created by experts at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health who work with the UTFA. The checklist outlines steps to safely reopen the university, including capacity limits and specific requirements about what types of masks should be worn on campus. The union has been asking the university to meet the standards set out in the checklist before the fall semester begins. According to Zorić, since the university has yet to meet these standards and the union remains concerned about the fall reopening.
Editor’s Note (August 20): This article has been updated to include comment from the UTFA and from a university spokesperson.