MRU classes will stay in-person but with mask and rapid testing restrictions
By Katia Maria Gallardo, Contributor
Even with the new public health measures announced by the government of Alberta due to the COVID-19 fourth wave, Mount Royal University (MRU) President and Vice-Chancellor Tim Rahilly assures students that the campus will remain open for in-person classes and that the health and safety measures in campus like wearing masks indoors and rapid testing for the unvaccinated will remain in place.
In an email sent out by Rahilly, there will be a mandatory mandate where face masks must be worn indoors by students, faculty and staff at all times. This includes classrooms, laboratories, hallways, and meeting/study rooms.
This mandate was effective starting Aug. 30, with limited exceptions unless an individual is alone in a single-use space or on their own in a residence unit. A second exception includes the designated eating and drinking areas and physical activity areas such as gyms or pools.
Alongside the mask mandate, MRU has also elected for mandatory rapid testing for all students, employees and faculty entering the indoor campus buildings. Mount Royal is asking their staff, students and faculty to declare their vaccination status online through their MyMRU accounts before Sept. 10th.
“Mount Royal is known for being a small community that supports each other… let’s hold onto and foster that culture of mutual respect.” Rahilly concluded.
In another email from the university, they stated that they “trust people to be honest in declaring their vaccination status”. Students, staff and faculty are able to choose between partially vaccinated or fully vaccinated. A person can change their vaccination status at any time.
Those who declare that they are ‘partially vaccinated’ are exempt from the rapid testing until Oct. 8 so they have time to get their second dose.
Those who declare they have been fully vaccinated with either an MRNA or viral vector vaccine for COVID-19 will be granted permission to withdraw from the rapid testing.
Once submitted, the university may ask for a verification of vaccination to be provided in a reasonable time period. If students are unable to provide proof of vaccination within a reasonable amount of time, they are subject to disciplinary action according to the Code of Student Conduct.
Those who have not yet been fully vaccinated are required to participate in the mandatory rapid testing, or they will not be allowed to enter the premises. Mount Royal’s details on rapid testing and its regulations are still to be released but the University of Calgary (U of C) rapid testing program includes two take-home rapid tests per week. If MRU follows U of C’s lead, the process will likely be something similar.
There will also be extended wifi range outdoors on campus to encourage students and faculty to take their group interactions outside. This is to avoid large indoor gatherings in hallways. As long as the weather remains decent, students will be accommodated to take their study breaks while in the fresh air.
The extended wifi coverage will cover Memorial Garden, East Gate lawn, Gauthier Court and Charlton Pond. If students need more wifi coverage, they can go to the Mount Royal Library and rent out wireless hotspots to use anywhere on campus.
While some students are glad the university is enforcing more restrictions in the face of rising COVID-19 cases, not all students agree with how the university is doing it.
Sam, a student going into their third year at MRU, says they should have found another solution for unvaccinated students. “[It] seems like a punishment for not being vaccinated when they easily could have had non-vaccinated [students] stay home and do online [classes].”
Last Sept. 8, the first student vaccination clinic began to offer students, employees and faculty first and second doses of the vaccine. There will be plenty more opportunities for vaccinations. Other dates include Sept. 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sept. 22 and 23 from 9 p.m. to 4 p.m., with a vaccination bus parked on campus for more availability to the service.
MRU is not the only university that has a mask mandate, rapid testing program and vaccination declarations. The University of Alberta, University of Calgary and Alberta University of the Arts are all issuing similar guidelines for its staff, students and faculty. Other universities like McGill University and University of Waterloo as well as others across the country are all enforcing some form of mandate to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“Our mission has always been to prioritize the health and safety of the MRU community while delivering quality academic programs to students.” Rahilly said.