At the end of November, the university announced all staff and students will need to be fully vaccinated to be on campus. More than 75 per cent of staff and nearly 85 per cent of students have registered as having received two doses.
UMSU president Brendan Scott said students at University of Manitoba are “largely in favour” of the change.
“When COVID first hit […] last fall, a lot of students thought, ‘Why go to university, why am I paying so much in tuition when I’m not even getting a full experience?’” he explained.
“There’s more to university than just the degree you get. It’s the people you meet, the different opinions you get to hear and the full experience that you get from being on campus. So, a lot of students actually just didn’t even come back for the fall […] It’s really sad [that] students who were first-year students last year, [many of them have] never stepped foot on campus.”
Scott pointed out for students pursuing a three-year degree, half of their degree has been completed through online learning.
Currently, unvaccinated staff and students must have a negative COVID-19 test to be on campus, but rapid tests will not be accepted in the winter term except in cases of approved exemption.
Students who have not uploaded their vaccination status by winter will be de-registered from their courses and unvaccinated staff will be placed on unpaid leave.
According to Scott, class sizes for the winter semester would return to normal, though masks would still be required.
He cautioned that specifics around things like eating and drinking are still being discussed by the COVID-19 Recovery Steering Committee.
“In order for this to work, though, of course, everyone on campus has to be fully [vaccinated],” he said.
Between 10 and 15 per cent of the university’s nearly 30,000 students have attended in-person classes so far this semester.
Scott compared the risk posed by the new variants to “the same scenario [we faced] in the 2020 winter semester,” when COVID-19 first appeared and the university had to suddenly close its doors.
“If the province decides to tell us to go into lockdown, then yeah, obviously we’ll switch back to online learning, but until that happens, we are in person,” Scott said.
“Whatever the province says, the university will adapt.”
Staff and students can get vaccinated at University Health Service on campus.