MRU scrambles amidst new restrictions; shifts to Proof-of-Vax Campus Access
By Katia Maria Gallardo, Contributor
Mount Royal University (MRU) is mandating students, staff and faculty to give proof of COVID-19 vaccination records as a way to regulate in-person entry to campus and as part of the Alberta’s Restriction Exemption Program (REP).
This is after the abrupt cancellation of in-person classes for the remainder of the school week on Sept. 15 due to the province’s public health emergency announcement.
All campus activities from Sept. 16-19 were cancelled. Students and staff were asked to come to campus only if necessary. If students needed to pick up textbooks from the Cougars Campus store, they had to book an appointment online.
“I feel MRU prematurely acted, we are 96 per cent vaccinated and are all 18 to 24-year-olds. We have no reason to shut down as us students are the least likely of anyone to get sick from COVID. If what we’ve been told about the vaccines [is] right, MRU should be a COVID safe space. I’ve lost all faith in [Timothy Rahilly] as a leader of this school as he is reactionary as opposed to making informed decisions,” a third year MRU physical literacy student said.
The next day on Sept. 16, MRU sent out another email outlining all updates on campus restrictions. The update specified how campus will reopen under REP starting Sept. 20. Mask mandates are still in effect, as well as declarations of vaccination. Those who refuse to declare their vaccination status are not allowed to enter the campus.
Marcus, a student in his third year of sociology said that overall, he was happy with how fast the decision was made.
“While I do believe that education belongs to all, despite being vaccinated or not, the decision to provide proof of vaccination…is something I, and a lot of other people I knew, were hoping for.”
Marcus also said that the possibility of going back to school online, even just for two days, had many students disappointed. “If they decided it was for the whole semester, I can imagine a lot of students going up to Financial Services and protesting refunds.”
The update also included a new mandate as part of REP that required students, faculty and staff to present their proof of vaccination by Oct. 4. During this time, audits will be performed to verify the authenticity of the declarations. More details on this new mandate will be provided by the President and Vice-Chancellor of Mount Royal, Dr. Timothy Rahilly, at a later date.
In light of how fast this situation has developed, MRU has decided to extend their date to drop classes and fees deadline to Sept. 30.
But they elected to keep their deadline to add classes on Sept. 17.
Other universities like the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta also temporarily suspended all their in-person proceedings the night of Sept. 15 to update and review the implications of Alberta’s new restrictions.
Mandatory vaccines for winter semester
MRU and eight other universities across Alberta including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and MacEwan University have decided that beginning Jan. 1, 2022, students, campus community members and visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter their premises.
When the winter semester begins, rapid testing will not be available as an alternative to full vaccination except for those who cannot be vaccinated based on medical grounds or other protected grounds outlined in the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Alongside the vaccine declarations, MRU will also be practicing random audits on students, faculty and staff. This is to support the university in ensuring that the vaccine declarations are for not dishonest. Those who have declared their vaccination status will have the chance to be selected for the random audits and will have to submit their proof of vaccination.
Mount Royal has stated that the decision to make vaccinations mandatory was not made in haste. Their decision is to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff are protected and can attend campus with a sense of security.
“It is the university’s duty to provide the safest possible learning, studying, working and living environment on our campus,” an email from the university said.
As of Sept. 10, Mount Royal’s vaccination numbers have been updated to 96 per cent illustrating that a vast majority of students and faculty have either been fully or partially vaccinated.
Getting vaccinated on campus
The vaccination bus is still available on Sept. 23 for those wanting to get vaccinated on campus. Located at the Riddell Library and Learning Centre and the EA building, the bus will be open for students from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the requirement of a government issued-ID and an Alberta health care card/number.
In an email they sent out, Mount Royal said everyone who is participating in activities and academics on campus should be working towards getting vaccinated fully.
There’s no news as of yet as to the penalties of being unvaccinated and on campus, however updates on this should not be far behind.
“I have confidence that the Mount Royal community will continue to work together to meet the ongoing challenge that is COVID-19,” Rahilly said.