My response to the open letter from SFU faculty and staff

August 12, 2021

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for your letter and for raising your concerns and suggestions. These issues are also on my mind, and I value the opportunity to hear from you and share some of my perspectives as well.

Over the past few months as COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to adults in BC, we have seen significant reduction in deaths and hospitalizations from the virus. Vaccination is the single most important thing each of us can to do protect ourselves and others. Despite this progress, COVID-19 cases will continue to occur.

As we are seeing, spread is increasing among those who are not fully vaccinated and vaccination rates are slowing. This is worrisome, but expected, and we are ready to shift protocols as required. Indeed, protocols have shifted regularly throughout the pandemic. We know that new guidance can be put in place swiftly when needed. As new directions as to how to operate safely on campus are provided, we will take action. 

We are in constant contact with our health authority partners and the Provincial Health Office, and rely on their guidance and deep knowledge of the specific facts of how COVID-19 is being transmitted in BC to inform our decisions to keep the SFU community safe. For the foreseeable future we will remain in regular communication with public health leaders and in a state of readiness to shift protocols when needed. 

We continue to take action ensuring the layers of protection are in place to keep our students, faculty and staff safe, including activities to encourage vaccination and improving ventilation. Fraser Health will provide vaccination clinics on campus to ensure ease of access for any students, faculty or staff who are not fully vaccinated when they arrive on campus. We are in discussions about mask requirements and will provide an update later this month.   

This is challenging for all of us, particularly at this stage of the pandemic when we are eager to return to some normalcy. As individuals, we are at different stages in our personal journey with the pandemic. Many of us have experienced trauma, and must move through that in our own ways. 

For our students, many have experienced a mental health crisis that will impact them for many years to come. A recent survey of university students in BC highlights the depths of this crisis, and reinforces that our students need to return to campus, they need to be with one another, and they need us to offer services and supports to help them find their way. 

These are complicated truths. They required complicated responses.

We continue to navigate the current moment with a focus on keeping our community safe and supporting our students in every way. This moment calls on each of us to take action thoughtfully and with great compassion for one another. 

Again, thank you for sharing your perspective. I appreciate hearing from you.

Joy Johnson