Petition to increase COVID-19 transparency on post-secondary campuses garners almost 1,000 signatures

Several UBC community members have signed a petition to urge the Government of BC, the Ministry of Advanced Education and the BC Public Health Office to increase transparency around COVID-19 cases in post-secondary institutions.

Chris Alemany, a member of the Vancouver Island University Faculty Association, said he created this petition due to the lack of communication about cases on campuses after classes had started, especially as BC is in the midst of its fourth wave.

“It’s added stress…not having factual information from trusted sources. It leads to rumours and misinformation,” said Alemany. As of publishing, the petition has nearly 1,000 signatures.

The petition asks health officials to post notifications of any COVID-19 case on the local Health Authority site, to work with post-secondary institutions to provide regular notifications of cases directly to community members and to provide consistent procedures to all faculty, staff and students as to how to notify others in their shared space.

This problem has existed at UBC as well. There hasn’t been much transparency with COVID-19 information throughout the pandemic, and UBC and public health continue to resist notifying community members of COVID-19 case exposures.

As a result, Dr. Jessica Wang, a history professor at UBC, signed the petition.

“I think the information environment has been poor, surrounding the state of the pandemic and return to campus … It just seems prudent to put information out, especially since the university is a complex place in which UBC, between students, faculty, and staff, has about 70,000 people on campus.”

“As a faculty member, I have no idea how we’re doing as an institution,” added Wang. “It increases anxiety if you don’t provide that information, and it does so unnecessarily, it’s unproductive.”

In the week since the petition was released, there hasn’t been any change.

“We haven’t heard anything, any changes coming in from the government. And that’s really what it’s aimed at, it’s not really aimed at any particular university because they’re all following the same rules,” said Alemany.

As for UBC, Wang suggested some changes that could be made to reassure staff and students.

“What I would like to see is a serious COVID dashboard, with the kind of information that would allow me and everyone else at UBC to see just how well or not well the university is doing in terms of the extent of COVID control,” she said.

Wang also stressed the importance of campus-specific research and information, like how well ventilated classrooms are to evaluate the risk of transmission.

Since being published, the petition has been signed by several faculty associations (though not UBC’s Faculty Association) including Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and Vancouver Community College Faculty Association.