Message from the President re return to in-person teaching

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, UBC has now announced that it is indeed moving to mainly in-person instruction as of 7 February. The Faculty Association had been consulted on the original move to 7 February as the date upon which in-person instruction would resume. Deciding to retain this date now as hospitalization rates are at nearly their highest levels since January 2021 in every age range from 20 to 79 is not a decision the Faculty Association can endorse, but it is the choice UBC has made.

We expect, of course, that UBC will maintain or augment its other commitments. We expect that the vaccine mandate will remain in place in an enforceable way. We expect that masks adequate to the airborne nature of the corona virus will be provided to all UBC community members and the mask mandates will be strictly enforced. We expect that UBC will increase its diligence in matters relating to ventilation in all spaces. We expect to receive timely and reliable information on exposures and outbreaks on our campuses.

The Faculty Association remains particularly disappointed that the main argument for the return to in-person instruction is not pedagogical but one based in a mental health claim: there is an oft-repeated claim that post-secondary students are facing particular challenges in the pandemic and that these challenges are in some significant part due to the online nature of instruction. The causal part of this claim, tying the mental health situation of our students to mode of instruction, is one for which the Faculty Association has seen no evidence whatsoever. Indeed, in the PHO’s letter to Presidents of post-secondary institutions written last week and in a slide deck circulating at UBC the only citations are to documents written in summer 2021 and based on data gathered in April and May 2021. No effort was made, it seems, to gather data to see if the fall return to campus changed any of the findings for post-secondary students. Post-secondary students are suffering financial and mental health problems from the pandemic but so indeed are young people more generally. In the absence of any clear evidence linking those problems to mode of instruction, the return to campus might very well be in support of solving a problem that does not in fact exist. We can only hope we don’t in the process exacerbate other problems

During this period of mainly on-line instruction, the Faculty Association received information of some major exceptions to the on-line policy—principally involving the Law and Medical faculties. You can find my letter to President Ono raising our concerns in these matters on our website as well as his response. We categorically reject the claim in President Ono’s letter that lecture-capture and other mandated methods of dealing with absent students do not, since they are not hyperflex hybridity, involve increase to faculty workloads. All increases to the complexity of course management increase faculty workloads.

We are now over 22 months into the pandemic in BC and we are again entering a transition and a very challenging time. Our sense is that at UBC right now your best chance at being granted a medical, pedagogical, or other exemption to the return to in-person teaching is to work with your department or program leadership and with your Faculty. The Faculty Association remains committed to helping any of our members who believe that they are being treated unfairly in this transition.


Alan Richardson