Guidelines for addressing violations of COVID-19 health and safety measures by students

Revised: November 9, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has provided health and safety guidance for students and employees who are on campus, such as the need to wear masks or appropriate face coverings and to abide by physical distancing protocols. These include the mandatory safety precautions provided on the University’s COVID-19 health and safety website. Students are also subject to municipal, regional or provincial public health regulations. These include mandatory self-isolation for those who are confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. Students can be excused from wearing a face covering due to medical conditions or disability. Those students are to submit a Face Covering Exemption Request and to develop an accommodation plan with AccessAbility Services. 

In the event that a student fails to follow University of Waterloo health and safety guidelines or municipal, regional or provincial public health regulations, they may be guilty of a non-academic offence under Policy 71 – Student Discipline. The responsibility for addressing complaints under Policy 71 falls to the associate dean of the student’s home faculty. The associate deans have developed these recommendations for members of the University (faculty, staff or students) who might witness violations of safety protocols. They have also developed recommended penalties under Policy 71, though these pertain only to violations of the regulations and protocols related to COVID-19. Penalties will range from letters of reprimand to temporary bans from campus. 

Addressing violations of safety protocols in public spaces

Violations of COVID-19 safety protocols might take place in public spaces (e.g. hallways, study rooms, or common areas). If a member of the University witnesses a possible violation by a student (e.g., not wearing a face covering) and feels comfortable doing so, they may respectfully remind the student of the safety rules. The following should be borne in mind, however. 

  1. The University is committed to an environment of tolerance and respect, free from harassment and discrimination. Students who feel unfairly treated in such an interaction have recourse through Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour
  2. It is not appropriate to ask for students’ names, University of Waterloo ID numbers, or any other type of identification, nor should students be touched in such interactions.
  3. Students might have medical need for accommodations and might be excused from wearing a mask for various reasons.  Students are not required to disclose the medical grounds for such exemptions. They are, however, expected to show the medical exemption verification form from the University to instructors or TAs for classes they are attending, or to campus police, on request.

If the community member does not feel comfortable addressing the student, or if the behaviour continues, they should contact University of Waterloo Police. University Police may refer the matter to the appropriate associate dean. 

Addressing violations of safety protocols in classrooms, labs and other teaching spaces

Instructors should outline COVID-19 safety principles within their classes (e.g., ask students to leave the room should they need to remove their mask for some reason). If a student or other community member feels there has been a violation of health and safety protocols in a classroom or similar space, they should inform the instructor, TA, or lab supervisor responsible. The instructor, TA, or lab supervisor, should then address the matter directly with the student. This should be done privately and in such a way as to maintain confidentiality where possible. If a student refuses to wear a mask for medical reasons, the instructor, TA, or lab supervisor can ask to see the student’s medical exemption verification form, and when that is not provided ask the student to provide identification. They should not deny students access to the class or to the lab, but communicate to the student that without proof of medical exemption, they can face disciplinary action through Policy 71. If the behaviour continues, a TA or lab instructor should inform the course instructor; the instructor should inform the appropriate associate dean. Complaints made to the associate deans by instructors or University police will be handled following the principles and procedures of Policy 71. 

Guidelines for the assessment of penalties under Policy 71

If student is found to have violated the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the associate dean may impose a penalty. The associate deans retain flexibility under Policy 71 when considering penalties for non-academic offences.