We appreciate the concerns raised by some students in the university community around COVID-19 during the exam period on the UBC Vancouver campus.
Throughout the pandemic, UBC has worked closely with the Provincial Health Officer and Regional Health Authorities to ensure we are following their guidance in our campus operations and that we are keeping our community safe.
This past Friday, UBC met with the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and other public health officials to discuss the evolving situation with COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. The campus safety guidelines, including the decision to continue with in-person exams on the Vancouver campus, were made in close consultation with the Provincial Health Officer.
They advised that COVID-19 transmission is very uncommon in structured educational settings because of high vaccination rates and the safety measures in place, and that in-person exams can proceed. (The decision to move exams online at the University of Victoria was made in a different public health context.)
Through the investigation and management of cases, Public Health has confirmed that cases among staff, students and faculty at UBC have been lower than in surrounding communities, and when cases do occur, the vast majority of acquisition is in homes and social settings. Because of this, the Events and Gatherings Orders explicitly excluded a number of settings including: “Educational activities, including a practicum or research, involving students or researchers of post-secondary institutions in any location when provided or arranged by a post-secondary institution.”
The UBC Vancouver Deans also recognize that some students may have other health concerns, including students who live with family members or others who are part of a high-risk group, as examples. In a statement, Deans have indicated to students that if they do not feel comfortable attending their remaining final exams due to these concerns, the student may request to delay their exam through what is known as a Standing Deferred, or SD. Normally, SD status is for medical or personal emergency, but, given the unusual circumstances, they will automatically permit SD exams on the basis of these concerns.
As the university has done throughout this pandemic, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust safety measures as necessary in conjunction with the Public Health Officer and Regional Health Authorities.