UBC, the AMS are keeping their mask mandates. What are they doing to enforce them?

UBC and the AMS have opted to keep their mask mandates in place after the province lifted its mandate — and they plan to continue using enforcement strategies from before the province's announcement.

Early last month, Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC's provincial health officer, announced that the mask mandate would be lifted provincially starting on March 11. This update also noted that individual organizations could choose to continue to require mask-wearing on their premises.

Shortly after the provincial update, UBC released a broadcast stating that the current approach to masking would be maintained on both campuses, until the end of the 2021/22 Winter Session on April 30. The broadcast also stated that students attending academic activities outside of campus were required to wear masks “if mandated.”

Non-compliance with these guidelines could lead to temporary suspension or unemployment for faculty and staff, as well as academic hold or deregistration for students, according to the March 11 version of UBC’s COVID-19 Campus Rules document.

However, it’s not entirely clear how these rules are meant to be enforced.

Faculty and student employees are encouraged to bring concerns or incidents of non-compliance to their Administrative Head of Unit or supervisor, according to the document. However, they are not required to do so.

The broadcast email also said in italics that managers of staff whose work is not computer-based should print out the broadcast email and display it in a common work area.

Matthew Ramsey, director of media relations at UBC, said in a written statement that “the university administration is providing education and awareness to support this measure across our campuses.”

The statement clarified that in events of non-compliance, students, faculty or staff had the choice to remind individuals of the mask-wearing requirement, or could contact their faculty, department head, administrator or Campus Security.

“We’re confident the vast majority of our community support the mask requirement … As a community that cares for one another, we are asking all students, faculty and staff to comply with this measure,” Ramsey wrote.

On the AMS side, President Cole Evans said that non-compliance with mask policies in the Nest could result in being asked to leave the building, or even being temporarily suspended or banned from the building in the future in accordance with Policy I-7A.

Evans also said that there is no expectation that student employees enforce existing policies, but that they would be “encouraged and empowered to” if they wanted to do so.

It does not seem that there have been any major challenges with noncompliance to mask policies on campus.

Evelyn Ashworth, fourth-year commerce student and TA, said that she personally hasn’t experienced any resistance from students regarding the wearing of masks, but mentioned that some of her colleagues may have.

“The most I've ever had is just like ... reminding someone to keep it above their nose, but it hasn't gone beyond that. I have heard of other TAs having to actually tell people like, ‘Hey, you're not wearing a mask.’”