Student housing restricts guests following sweeping provincial health orders

As BC enters a second wave of the pandemic, UBC Student Housing and Community Services has adapted the sweeping restrictions for campus residences.

The new guidelines require maintaining a small core bubble, mandatory mask usage in indoor public spaces and avoiding non-essential travel. Public health authorities define a core bubble as an individual’s immediate household, including roommates.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province has extended the restrictions until December 7.

Student Housing and Community Services (SHCS) emailed residents on November 12 outlining how the public health order would apply in residence.

Each resident is allowed to have one guest from their core bubble in their private quarters at a time. SHCS is operating under the same definition of a core bubble as public health authorities.

Residence fitness programs and in-person social programs have been postponed indefinitely. Fitness and music rooms in residences will remain open for individual use.

“We recognize that these restrictions, in particular regarding guests, may be troubling and impactful. Nonetheless, we all must do our utmost to uphold these public health directives,” the email said.

Sam Makkar, a first-year student living in Orchard Commons, said he heard about the SHCS restrictions from the email. Not much will change for him because he said he had already limited social interaction before this.

“Before, mostly I would just stay in my bubble. But since now it’s just one person, I just study with one of my friends and eat with them,” he said. “It is a little bit more difficult, as I can’t see a lot of people I wouldn’t have seen and hung out with casually.”

Andrew Quenneville, associate director of Residence Life, said that UBC already had an in-depth process to deal with issues, which has led to a smooth transition into adapting with the new public health guidelines.

“I would say because we have a clearly defined process for resident standards, and those COVID-19 public health guidelines are part of the process, we have a mechanism to follow with concerns as they arrive,” said Quenneville.

To enforce the rules, Quenneville said Residence Life will first focus on educating residents about the rules. Residence staff including RAs will speak to students who have broken rules and will document them according to normal residence expectations.

However, some students have raised concern with the residence protocols for handling suspected COVID-19 cases, saying that they didn’t adequately accommodate students.

Makkar recognized that lack of access to testing for students living on campus remains an issue. However, he said that, in his experience, most residents seem to be following the rules.

“Of course there are going to be some people that it’s going to be a tough transition for everyone,” he said. “Everyone is trying to follow the guidelines to the best of their abilities, just because we do live here and we wouldn’t want the residence to close permanently if things were to get really bad.”

This article has been updated to reflect that The Ubyssey spoke to Andrew Quenneville, associate director of residence life, not Andrew Parr, managing director of SHCS.