New Brunswick universities adapt disciplinary rules to COVID-19 behavior

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New Brunswick universities are reviewing policies to allow disciplinary action against students who break COVID-19 rules.Returning to class this fall prompts administrators and student leaders to try and get the message across about the importance of following public health guidelines.

Adam Christie, director of student life and international services at Mount Allison University, said he expected students would be eager to see friends after the pandemic abruptly ended in the final semester.

But he says students have widely accepted the new realities of life under COVID-19.

“Students want to be safe and healthy just as much as full-time residents of Sackville want to be safe and healthy,” said Christie.

Universities began welcoming self-isolated students in mid-August, as they arrived from outside the Atlantic tourist bubble.

In Nova Scotia, at least six university students from Wolfville and Antigonish were fined $ 1,000 from the RCMP for not self-isolating. Others have been sanctioned by the administration, including an infected student who was expelled from Université Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia.

‘It’s a different year’

Mount Allison is working closely with the Town of Sackville to plan a safe return this fall.

A case of COVID-19 was confirmed at the university in late August. It was travel-related and the individual was isolated at the time, according to health officials.

Jonathan Ferguson, the president of the Mount Allison Students Union, said there was “a little bit of tension” in the community stemming from concerns about COVID-19.

But he said public health rules have been well respected so far, with masks being mandatory on campus and most students choosing to wear them in town. There has also been a noticeable change in people spending more time outdoors in small groups.

Jonathan Ferguson is the president of the Mount Allison Student Union. (Submitted / Jonathan Ferguson)

The student union prepares graphics and information and makes them suitable for the life situations of off-campus students.

“We’ve really been promoting that it’s a different year and of course we want people to know that there are a lot of ways to spend it that are just as fun and engaging,” Ferguson said.

In a typical year, nearly half of Mount Allison’s students live in residence on campus, but with only single rooms this year, about two-thirds live off campus this fall.

Revision of codes of conduct

St. Thomas University in Fredericton reviewed its non-university policy and determined that there was sufficient latitude to act in the event of a situation. The code allows students to represent themselves and talk about any misconduct.

Spokesman Jeffrey Carleton said the policy applies to students on and off campus.

When planning the fall semester, the university sent out a survey that identified health and safety as the top priority for students.

This semester’s classes are taught remotely with optional in-person activities.

“We were generally pleased with the way the students reacted to the gravity of this situation,” Carleton said.

Jeffrey Carleton is Associate Vice President of Communications at St. Thomas University. (CBC)

Mount Allison has added an appendix to its student code of conduct that addresses health safety measures and procedures. It includes a COVID-19 steering committee to deal specifically with any violation of university measures.

Christie said the RCMP would generally be responsible for enforcing the behavior of off-campus students, but the policy changes leave the door open for much-needed discipline.

“We said that if the conduct of students off campus had a negative effect on the health and safety of the community on the Mount A campus, the action was permitted under the code,” he said.

The Mount Allison Student Union has been consulted on the decision and supports the change.

University students in Fredericton adapt to a completely different experience with most online courses. 2:12

The University of New Brunswick has updated its student code of conduct to include compliance with COVID-19 measures on campus.

Spokeswoman Paisley Sibbald said students, faculty and staff are required to complete an online safety orientation before returning to campus, which includes provincial health rules.

Sean Mackenzie, president of the UNB student union, is part of the response team on both university campuses. The student union was asked to help promote education on public health guidelines.

“We don’t want things to go backwards in New Brunswick because then we will have even more restrictions,” he said.

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