COVID Updates

January 10th, 2022
For immediate release

Letter to Faculty Members Concerning Return to In-Person Teaching

Douglas College began the Winter 2022 semester online. On January 7th, Douglas College confirmed that we would return to in-person classes on January 10th. As faculty members, you will rightly want to know how this decision impacts your life. The purpose of this letter is to apprise you of what the DCFA communicated to administration during the first week of the semester and to outline our position on the return to campus. This letter will conclude with guidance as to what you can do.

During this first week, in my role as Interim President, I conveyed to administration faculty concerns about returning to campus when such a return to in-person course delivery does not seem advisable. Since the decision to return to campus I have been in communication with Human Resources about flexibility in the return to campus.

On January 7th, faculty members received guidance from their respective deans about the return to in-person classes on January 10th. The first paragraph states:

Consistent with all colleges and institutes in the sector and following directives from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, Douglas College will return to in-person classes as planned starting on Monday, January 10.

To my knowledge, across the sector colleges will either begin their semester on January 10th or return to in-person instruction on that date. However, many universities (including FPSE member locals Capilano, UFV, Kwantlen, and Emily Carr) remain online until a planned return to in-person instruction on January 24th. It is a legitimate question to ask what the basis is for a difference dividing colleges and universities across the sector, when some share local conditions regardless of their institutional categorization (e.g., some colleges and universities are covered by the same health authority, and it is unclear what differs in their local conditions).

The second paragraph states:

We understand that this decision may create heightened anxiety for some; however,
the PHO has reassured us that post-secondary campuses are generally low-risk settings,
and virus transmission is extremely low in classroom and lab environments with the safety measures currently in place.

It is a legitimate concern to ask how past practice applies to a COVID-19 variant which has higher rates of transmission than other variants. It must also be acknowledged that the decision to return to campus does not address the heightened anxiety many faculty members face due to the new variant’s transmissibility, particularly as there has been no epidemiological rationale
offered to indicate why it was not safe to teach in person last Friday, and now suddenly it is.

As I understand the guidance provided by the college, this was a decision made at the provincial level, and it is above all a political decision driven by the assumption that post-secondary education will project a sense of normalcy in uncertain times. It warrants a political response.

We call on FPSE to relay our concerns at a provincial level:

  • On what basis is there a difference in return-to-campus between colleges and universities?
  • Is there a consistent provincial plan for handling outbreaks at colleges and universities?
  • Why is adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) not provided to all employees at
  • post-secondary institutions?

The DCFA also raises operational concerns with administration specific to our local conditions:

  1. We call on administration to provide all employees with the proper PPE. During the Omicron phase of the pandemic, health authorities have communicated that reducing risk and transmission involve utilizing PPE, which in this case includes utilizing N95 or KN95 masks. We also call on administration to issue more specific guidance regarding the proper PPE in a manner more fulsome than the most recent direction to “follow all posted signage on-campus including mask requirements.”
  2. The PHO has directed business and schools to formulate back-up plans in anticipation of huge numbers of staff shortages as people fall sick and are required to isolate. On January 7th, the province outlined measures for the K–12 sector. We call on administration to formulate a local plan in the absence of province-wide sector guidance and to distribute this plan so that faculty members are apprised of it.
  3. We have already communicated concerns that the administration’s messaging
    concerning flexibility of delivery is reactive, meaning that it covers cases where faculty members must react to changing circumstances related to COVID-19 transmission (i.e., the need to self-isolate or to monitor symptoms). We have asked for proactive flexibility for temporary medical accommodations for faculty within a limited set of scenarios. We seek to find common ground with administration in accommodating faculty and continuity in course delivery.
  4. We ask that administration update protocols for the regular cleaning of classrooms, discontinuing use of washroom air dryers, the management of student traffic flow, and the limitation of elevator occupancy. This latter is particularly important at the Anvil Centre. In addition, an extra supply of masks should be available to instructors to provide to students who have lost or forgotten their own.

Finally, we turn to faculty members. We know that the new variant is the cause of much anxiety and concern as we are instructed to return to the classroom. We will continue to advocate on your behalf, and we offer you our full support. We will continue to address new issues as they arise. For faculty members:

  • Get vaccinated if you are able to do so.
  • Complete a daily self-assessment before coming to campus and stay home if ill or experiencing symptoms and even if you have received a negative COVID-19 test result.
  • We advise you to contact your dean or responsible administrator to present any concerns that you might have.
  • If you feel that your concerns have not been adequately resolved, please contact the DCFA.
  • If you wish to address concerns about the provincial government’s policies and decisions that affect post-secondary education and our working conditions, the DCFA has provided a template letter that you can send to your MLA at:

On behalf of the Douglas College Faculty Association Executive Council,

Devin Shaw,
Interim President
(778) 789-1319

Covid-19 Vaccinations

November 8, 2021

In accordance with the directive of the general membership on September 27, 2021, and the direction of Executive Council on November 8, 2021, the DCFA is issuing the following statement:

The DCFA is disappointed by the failure of Douglas College to follow through on their commitment to require all students, faculty, and employees who work and learn on Douglas College campuses to confidentially declare their vaccination status or participate in regular, periodic rapid testing. We call on Douglas College to follow through on this commitment.

The DCFA Executive Council encourages all faculty members to get vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine. This is about keeping everyone safe—you, your family, your coworkers, and your students. We all need to do everything we can to protect each other.

The DCFA will continue to protect the rights of those faculty who are not able to get the vaccine or who choose not to, in accordance with the Collective Agreement.