Weekly Briefs: Feb. 7 – 13

(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

COVID-19 operations on campus

Ryan Sullivan, associate vice-president enrolment, attended the weekly St. Thomas University Students’ Union meeting to address some student concerns about COVID-19 operations on campus and in residence.

Sullivan, along with Kim Fenwick, attends weekly calls with other publicly-funded universities and colleges in New Brunswick, the department of post-secondary education, labour and training (PETL), representatives from the department of health, public health and sometimes, public safety. These calls started shortly after COVID-19 arrived in the province.

“We started those weekly calls in a way to ensure that information was flowing from the Government of New Brunswick to the institutions, as well as trying to as much as possible have consistency in New Brunswick in higher education,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan said many of the policies and initiatives STU put in place since the start of the pandemic were done in a consultative process through those meetings with PETL, public health, public safety and other universities.

Between Jan. 15 and Feb. 13, there were 11 positive COVID-19 cases and 29 close contacts in STU’s residences. Sullivan also said 99 per cent of the STU community is fully vaccinated.

“We have not seen the transmissions of Omicron like we may have expected or would have seen in communal living environments like a residence if it wasn’t for the strong vaccination rates,” he said.

Residence concerns

Lauren Hayes, St. Thomas University Students’ Union Harrington Hall representative, said she is concerned the occupied and vacant signs for residence washrooms are not being respected. Due to COVID-19 and isolating students, only one person is allowed in the washroom at a time so students use occupied/vacant signs to inform other students if the washroom is free or not. But Hayes said these signs aren’t being followed.

Ryan Sullivan, associate vice-president enrolment, said this issue was raised by residence life and STU had discussions on how to change this.

Hayes suggested students in isolation are provided with a red occupied sign to indicate to other students that they are isolating and need to be in the washrooms alone. Sullivan said this isn’t a bad idea, but it would have to be optional for the students who wouldn’t want to identify themselves as COVID-19 positive or in isolation.

Hayes also brought up concerns about meal hall deliveries to students in isolation. She said students in isolation don’t receive the same options provided at meal hall and some students have received meals that don’t correlate with their dietary restrictions. Sullivan said he’d follow up with food services.

On-campus concerns

Tyler MaGee, St. Thomas University Students’ Union president, asked Ryan Sullivan, associate vice-president enrolment, if public health gave STU direction on asymptomatic cases on campus. Sullivan said with the mask and distancing requirements on campus along with STU’s vaccination rate, public health concluded the university environment to be very low risk. There have been no cases due to classroom transmission.

MaGee also asked why students don’t have the option to join in-person classes virtually. Sullivan said it’s short notice for professors to plan both in-person and virtual lessons since online classes were only supposed to last a certain period of time. During the online period, professors adjusted, but many had intended to be back in-person.

COVID-19 rapid tests on campus

As for COVID-19 rapid tests, Ryan Sullivan, associate vice-president enrolment, said every test the university receives for students, St. Thomas University must report the results back to the province. This means rapid tests are not freely available for pick up at the STUSU help desk. If on or off-campus students need a COVID-19 rapid test, they can email [email protected] or contact Sullivan directly.

Hybrid learning panel

Sydona Chandon, St. Thomas University Students’ Union vice-president academic, said she will be speaking on behalf of students at STU’s hybrid learning panel on Feb. 18.

Winter Carnival

Victoria Young, St. Thomas University Students’ Union vice-president student life, said since the winter carnival planned for January was cancelled, they are planning to have a make-up carnival before reading week. The event will offer hot chocolate, mini donuts, ice sculptures and potentially a skating rink. There will also be a coffee house event, featuring a STU alum folk artist.