ANTIGONISH: A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been finalized at StFX University in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the introduction of a liability waiver by university officials as an element of their return-to-campus plan, students and community members alike raised concerns as it protected the university against legal action in the event of a COVID-19-related illness or death.
Addressing the concerns of the campus community, university officials held a series of town hall events recently; representatives from both sides signed off on the MOU last week.
Sarah Elliott, the president of the StFX Students Union, indicates the MOU helps address the concerns raised by presenting both university and student responsibilities in one package.
“Instead of the very long, different campus plans and community guidelines, we wanted a very condensed version,” she said. “[Something] that students could easily digest and understand what exactly they’re signing up for.”
Elliott suggests she feels the concerns of the students were heard overall; unfortunately, not everyone is happy – however, that was never going to happen.
“Both the university and the Students’ Union did a comprehensive job in student consultation,” she said. “Basically, everything that we wanted to see in the MOU was able to be provided in the MOU, and that’s really exciting.”
Elliott explains the MOU doesn’t replace the waiver, which students are required to sign before they can return to campus in September – it puts all the information students need in one place, so they know what they’re agreeing to before they sign the waiver.
In a letter to the StFX community, president and vice chancellor Andrew Hakin advised the school’s board of governors determined the waiver and protocols were needed, but also they should have done a better job of engaging students before sending out the waiver.
Hakin stated the MOU addresses the university’s responsibility to provide increased supports and accommodations for students who are required to be absent from classes due to illness and for those who are seeking assistance related to taking online courses elsewhere.
The MOU also established a commitment for more frequent communications with students.
All students attending StFX for the fall semester are required to electronically sign the student community protocols and the legal waiver documents by August 14.