According to U of T, more than 65,000 community members have uploaded their vaccination status on UCheck as of September 15, with 94 per cent of them being fully vaccinated. 

Despite U of T’s fall precautions, including a requirement to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing, along with a mask mandate, U of T community members have continued to voice concerns about the university’s policies on other measures like capacity limits and physical distancing. 

Many are dissatisfied with U of T’s decision to follow the province, which has stated that educational institutions don’t need to establish formal policies around capacity limits or physical distancing as long as they have vaccine and mask mandates.

Official policies and public statements

Besides noting the number of vaccinated community members, a U of T spokesperson added that 55 per cent of courses offered this semester will include in-person components. It is largely up to individual faculties and instructors to consider public health guidelines while deciding what parts of the course should be in person. 

On the topic of physical distancing and capacity limits, U of T reiterated that it follows the Ontario government’s policy, which allows for “flexible capacity limits” and no physical distancing as long as other safety measures are in place. 

According to the Ontario government, its policy was established in consultation with its chief medical officer of health and local public health units. However, in a report released at the beginning of September, the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table — a group affiliated with U of T that provides guidance to the government — wrote that measures such as capacity limits and physical distancing would still be necessary to curb the fourth wave.

Community criticisms

U of T’s reasoning has not convinced everyone, including students who claim that the physical distancing initiatives the university showcases do not reflect reality.

In an interview with BlogTO, Sally Race, a fourth-year mathematics undergraduate student, responded to a photo of a physically distanced classroom that U of T posted on Twitter. She explained that in her class, four students were sitting at each table rather than one, as opposed to what can be seen in U of T’s tweet.

Other members of the U of T community have shared similar concerns on social media, noting that none of their classes were physically distanced. People also criticized U of T for filling some classes to pre-pandemic capacity, which would not allow for physical distancing.

Other campus groups, such as the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) have been noting these gaps in the university’s policy since the summer. In an open letter published on August 31, UTFA President Terezia Zorić noted that “Our members are worried, upset, and angered about being required to teach in crowded classrooms,” before calling on the university to implement more stringent measures to keep faculty safe.