Editorial: Carleton has a responsibility to students in the sixth wave of COVID-19

Carleton University is endangering students’ health and education by lifting mandates for the summer term.

Carleton announced it will be lifting mask and vaccine mandates May 1. We April 4the university confirmed the majority of summer term classes will be delivered in-person.

The university is ignoring the dangers of a spike in COVID-19 cases and accepting the risks of another last-minute change in course delivery if restrictions need to be put back into place.

While the province has lifted masking in most public spaces and pulled back on other preventative regulations, health experts are calling the spike in new cases Ontario’s sixth wave.

Carlton reported 270 positive COVID-19 cases on campus throughout March, a jump from the 28 positive cases in February.

On April 5, Carleton removed the COVID-19 case tracker from its website altogether. This not only raises questions about transparency and the university’s ability to implement contact tracing but makes it impossible for students to stay informed about their own safety.

Some Carleton students were disappointed with the shift to online classes in the winter semester. Incoming CUSA president Anastasia Lettieri said in her campaign she would advocate for tuition rebates for students affected by the switch to online course delivery in January.

Many students are tired of online courses and even more so when they aren’t given notice about virtual course delivery. Sudden changes in course delivery disproportionately affects international and out-of-province students who are relocating to attend university in Ottawa, as well as immunocompromised and students with disabilities who rely on consistency in course delivery to arrange accommodations.

In January, Carleton president and vice-chancellor Benoit Antoine-Bacon said in-person and online course delivery would not change for the winter and summer terms, barring significant change in the trajectory of the pandemic. Yet the university is removing measures that hold case counts steady.

While many Ontario universities are following the same path toward eliminating restrictions, Brock University announced it will be keeping mask and vaccination requirements during the summer term. Brock’s interim president and vice-chancellor Lynn Wells said in a press release that the university’s “top priority remains the health and well-being of the campus community.”

The statement is almost verbatim what Tara Jackson, Carleton’s communications manager, said in an email to the Charlatan regarding the increases of COVID-19 cases on campus.

The “health and safety of the Carleton community is the university’s top priority,” the email read.

This is a hollow statement when compared to universities such as Brock that are doing so much more to ensure safety guidelines continue to be upheld.

Carleton’s decision to lift safety measures does not reassure students that the university is prioritizing students’ well-being.

Featured graphic from file.

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