By Tamanna T., Staff Writer
Home to approximately 2,000 students, SFU Residence has faced challenges housing undergraduate and graduate students safely during the pandemic. Fall brings many SFU students to Residence, some returning and some starting their university journey. With so many people living in close quarters in a pandemic, it’s fair to question if SFU is taking required steps to ensure students’ safety and address concerns for their welfare. While SFU Residence does have community guidelines in place, there is a lack of strong implementation and information on what happens in case of an outbreak, which puts residents at risk.
As the BC government’s guidelines change with the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases, SFU Residence needs to be on high alert and have stricter measures for the safety of its residents. While having mandatory proof of vaccination is great, being double vaccinated does not prevent transmission, which makes it more important to strongly implement community guidelines.
Currently, masks are required “in all indoor public areas in residences,” and as a resident, I have noticed Community Advisors (CA) going on routine rounds around Residence buildings to try to ensure that safety rules are being followed. However, I have still seen many students sitting in common areas with no masks and no social distancing. Other than the CA’s rounds, there is no effort to implement the mask mandate inside residence buildings. Appointing more CAs would help increase the number of rounds and aid the enforcement of the guidelines.
Additionally, while the importance of cleaning high-touch areas is mentioned on their website, I have not observed surfaces being cleaned more than once a day. With restrictions being lifted on room occupancy limits, students are likely to have small gatherings in rooms or common spaces without social distancing, making it even more important to strictly enforce safety protocols. UBC has a limit of hosting up to five people in a shared space, and SFU should do the same.
Although there is information provided on what to do if you are experiencing symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, lack of information about what will happen to the rest of the students in the event of an outbreak is concerning.
Not having a set back-up plan can generate anxiety in students, especially since they are living away from their families, and affect their performance in school. Acadia University of Nova Scotia has a detailed plan, which includes training their residents on “preventing, recognising, and monitoring symptoms of COVID-19.” Similarly, SFU Residence needs to have a solid plan and communicate it clearly to all residents, as soon as possible.
With COVID-19 rising in BC, it is imperative that SFU Residence ensures better implementation of its community guidelines and has a clear contingency plan in place.