Instructors apprehensive after U of W lifts campus mask mandate


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A day after the University of Winnipeg’s mask mandate was lifted, Kevin Freedman, an instructor in the department of business and economics, witnessed the impact first-hand.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/08/2022 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A day after the University of Winnipeg’s mask mandate was lifted, Kevin Freedman, an instructor in the department of business and economics, witnessed the impact first-hand.

“I’m on campus right now actually, and nobody is wearing a mask,” Freedman said during a phone interview Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, the U of W removed its mask mandate just two days after making the announcement. Masking on campus will now be highly recommended.


On Wednesday, the U of W removed its mask mandate.

“For students, faculty, staff and visitors who are more comfortable wearing masks, we will be making them available at specific locations throughout campus. We ask our community to exhibit compassion with respect to an individual’s choice regarding masking,” reads Monday’s U of W COVID-19 bulletin.

In July, the University of Manitoba announced it would continue requiring masks on campus. St. Boniface University quietly updated its COVID-19 policy to recommend, but not require, masks from Sept. 1 onwards.

St. Boniface University did not respond to a request for comment.

The Manitoba government removed provincial mask mandates on March 15. Proof of vaccination was removed March 1.

Shortly after the U of W announced the mask policy change, biology professor Scott Forbes received an email from a student who expressed concerns about the situation.

“It came out of the blue, and it wasn’t something I was expecting, but I expressed my sympathy for the student’s views. I share them,” Forbes said. “My personal view is that rescinding the mask mandate is not an evidence-based decision.”

Forbes said faculty, staff and students weren’t given adequate input into the change.

The U of W’s President Todd Mondor was not available for an interview. However, in a statement sent to the Free Press, Jan Stewart, the interim provost and vice-president academic and chair of the operational recovery team at the U of W, said the following:

“Consultations were held with the union leadership, student union, Deans and Directors, and others. Feedback we received supported adjusting our masking mandate from mandatory to recommended. As committed, we will continue to monitor the situation of COVID-19 and adjust any protocols as required. Complimentary masks will continue to be made available at locations throughout our campus.”

Last Friday, the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association sent a survey about mask mandates to their members. Association president Peter Miller said the majority of faculty members wanted mandates to remain.

The survey closed Tuesday — a day after the U of W announced the mandate’s end.

“With that in mind, we’re sort of continuing to discuss with the administration the concerns of our members,” Miller said.

Prior to the policy change, Miller said that UWFA had been in frequent conversation with the university’s administration about public-health measures on campus.

Forbes doesn’t believe recommending masks will be effective.

“The recommendations basically have zero effect,” he said. “I can’t really think of many situations where the potential for COVID is greater than in a classroom, where you have no social distancing, people sitting 18 inches apart or less for prolonged periods of time with an airborne, aerosol virus.

“That is a recipe for transmission.”

Freedman, who will continue to wear a mask on campus, said he understands there are difficulties that come with a mandate.

“I think now, unfortunately, it’s not just a health decision, it’s a political decision,” he said. “I am a little disappointed, but I certainly understand where they’re coming from.”

Forbes still has questions about whether faculty will be allowed to enforce masking in their own classrooms, or whether professors will be given the option to switch to teaching in a virtual format. He is also concerned about the lack of COVID tracking measures on campus.

“We don’t know a great deal. The one concern that I have is that we’re flying blind,” he said. “We just don’t know what the level of risk is. We do know that COVID hasn’t left yet.”


Updated on Friday, August 19, 2022 9:50 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Mondor, corrects reference to president's availability

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