‘Guidelines are just that— guidelines’: AMS responds to UBC on COVID-19 safety for the fall term

The AMS has sent another letter to UBC in response to the university’s reply to a letter the student governing body wrote last week, reiterating its demands for a vaccine and mask mandate in specific spaces on campus.

Last week, VP Academic and University Affairs Eshana Bhangu and President Cole Evans sent UBC and the Board of Governors a fiery letter calling for mandatory vaccines in residence as well as masks in large lecture halls. VP Students Ainsley Carry rejected these requests in a letter sent Friday night.

The most recent letter criticized UBC for failing to “sincerely” engage with student concerns that the AMS had raised in its last correspondence.

“We, the representatives of the students, wrote to you with genuine student concerns, which were not adequately addressed in your response … While we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is important that the university not dismiss student concerns as an issue of personal wellbeing,” the letter reads.

Bhangu and Evans echoed many of the same concerns from last week’s letter, namely the university’s unwillingness to provide stricter guidelines than required by the Ministry of Advanced Education’s COVID-19 Return-to-Campus guidelines.

“For an institution of UBC’s calibre, doing only what is recommended by the PHO guidelines and not taking the extra measures or showing leadership to ensure the safety and security of the UBC community is, undoubtedly, the bare minimum,” the two wrote.

They added that the province’s guidelines should not be used to dismiss students’ concerns over their safety and wellbeing.

“We’d like to point out that those guidelines are just that— guidelines.”

Instead, Bhangu and Evans called on UBC to release any independent risk analysis it has conducted related to a return to campus “to ease the confidence issues we are facing as a community.”

The letter also points to Public Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s recent comments that seemed to suggest that universities could require proof of vaccination in student residences. The BC Ministry of Health reaffirmed its opposition to such a policy soon after.

“For our institution, this is a clear indication that UBC can take action and require vaccinations in student residences and could mandate the wearing of masks in lecture halls,” Bhangu and Evans wrote in reference to Henry’s comments.

Bhangu posted the letter to Twitter — which she did with the previous letter — again receiving widespread support.

“TFW when a student organization needs to school the vice-president charged with ensuring their well-being on how governance works, and to call gaslighting for what it is. I wish @FacultyUbc would step up with the same clarity of mind,” tweeted Dr. Mauricio Drelichman, an associate professor at the Vancouver School of Economics.