We write to you today to formally announce that the provincial government has agreed to allow universities to move forward with their in-person teaching plans for the fall and to welcome you to campus. This is of course, a cause for celebration as for over a year most of you have been learning remotely. Some of you have yet to experience a Queen’s classroom experience. We are all excited for what will finally resume next week but this allowance by the province for our instructional programs to operate outside of the Step 3 restrictions that still apply to most aspects of our community’s broader operations comes with responsibilities.
We must implement a mandatory vaccine policy which you heard about on Wednesday. This has been imposed to ensure that easing of some restrictions in certain parts of our institution can be balanced with tighter restrictions in others. We must be aware that the current exemption from Step 3 requirements for teaching and learning are tenuous. There is no guarantee how long they will last and activity that compromises the health and safety of our community puts our teaching plans at significant risk.
Over the last few days, large student gatherings have been occurring around our campus. This is a flagrant disregard for public health and for the law of our province. We support our city enforcement officers and police as they work to address these illegal activities and we will work with our partners when they refer students to us for processing under our Student Code of Conduct.
While consequences for this behaviour will be imposed, we acknowledge that the best way to put a stop to this recklessness is to band together and speak directly to those individuals who are jeopardizing our academic year. We have been working for 18 months to get students back in the classrooms so we can experience what higher education is all about, learning in an environment of respect where knowledge and with it intellectual and social development are paramount.
The majority of our students just want to learn in a classroom with their peers. They want to continue their programs and enjoy the full experience of their classes and their direct interaction with their fellow students and professors. They are tired and their mental health has been compromised by months of being locked inside. Behaviour of a few cannot and indeed, should not compromise what we believe our students want from Queen’s.
We have come so far and it would be a travesty if we could not get back to what we have all been waiting for so very long. Universities are for learning. Please remember that this weekend and over the coming months and let’s be sure that we will be learning in classrooms next week and all the months to follow.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor