A message from Ramona Lumpkin, CM, PhD, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, Mount Saint Vincent University

Please read this message in full as it includes important updates on our:

– Return to on-campus learning
– Vaccine requirement
– Mask mandate
– On-campus services
– Testing program
– Exposure notices
– Supports

Dear MSVU students, faculty and staff,

We know that the many changes the pandemic has brought about for your learning, teaching and working at MSVU have not been easy. As we navigate the Omicron phase of the pandemic together, please be assured that we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our entire community and successful learning for our students.

A return to on-campus learning, with exceptions

We are looking forward to a return to on-campus classes on Monday, January 31. This decision is in line with the recent recommendation of Dr. Strang to the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents that universities resume in-person classes in support of student well-being. MSVU has led the way in ensuring a safe campus environment throughout the pandemic, and the return to on-campus instruction is enabled by our significant multi-layered COVID-19 safety approach that is being further strengthened currently – please read on for those details.

Following consultation with faculty and consideration of multiple factors, some classes will remain online or adopt a blended approach (learn about modes of delivery here). Once approved, instructors are asked to inform students of any change in the originally planned mode of delivery for each of their courses by Thursday, January 27. Students should reach out to their instructors if they have not heard by that date.

Students: should changes to modes of delivery for any of your courses result in an on-campus class next to an online class in your schedule, you don’t have to rush home in between. There’s a list of quiet locations in which you can take online courses on campus on the MSVU website (and we expect to add more soon).

Those who no longer wish to continue in a course due to a change in the mode of delivery are reminded of the University’s course drop deadlines. Students who withdraw from a winter course before February 7 for any reason will not have a course notation on their academic transcript. Students who withdraw from a course between February 7 and March 14 will receive a grade of “W” on their transcript, which stands for “withdrawal without academic penalty” (in other words, it carries no GPA implications).

Anyone who is affected by COVID-19 related illness or isolation requirements is encouraged to speak to their instructor (students) or supervisor/Chair (staff/faculty) regarding accommodation. A reminder that MSVU earlier shared guidance on what to do if you test positive for COVID-19.

Updated vaccine requirement

According to NS Public Health, a multi-layered safety approach is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Those who will be returning to on-campus learning on January 31 should be assured that the university has extensive health and safety measures in place, including our vaccine requirement, mask mandate, and enhanced cleaning protocols.

MSVU was notably the first university in the province to implement a vaccine requirement (last August), and, as such, has had this important protection in place for some time. At this point, more than 98% of students, faculty and staff have two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

In response to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and decreasing test availability, our vaccine requirement is being revised to remove exemptions for non-medical reasons. This change will better align our vaccine policy with evolving Public Health directives and with similar provincial and federal policies. The university will be following up directly with the small number of people who are affected by this change (i.e. those with exemptions that are not medical in nature). The deadline for these individuals to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (i.e. to be two weeks past their second dose) will be May 1 in order to allow for the 8-week required delay between doses. As well, visitors to campus continue to be required to declare that they are in compliance with the University’s vaccine requirement before coming on campus.

Additionally, COVID-19 boosters are now available to everyone 18 and older in Nova Scotia, meaning most of our campus population is eligible for a third dose of vaccine. You are strongly encouraged to get your booster as soon as possible.

Mask mandate continues, Three-layer masks now required

Throughout the winter semester, masks must continue to be worn in all common indoor areas on campus, including in classrooms and whenever a distance of six feet cannot be maintained.

Per Public Health guidelines, three-layer non-medical masks are required effective immediately. Masks can be very briefly lowered to take a sip of water. Eating is not permitted in the library (except in individual study rooms) and classrooms as long as masks are required (unless a medical necessity, in which case, please advise your instructor). In common spaces (e.g. seating areas in lobbies), masks should not be lowered unless you are actively eating or drinking and, if that is taking place, you will need to ensure at least six feet of distance between you and others. The MSVU website features a list of places where you can sit at a safe distance from others to eat.

Students, faculty, staff, and visitors are asked to bring their own masks when attending campus. If you forget your mask, you can get one at one of these locations:
– Assisi Security Desk – staffed 24/7 (Assisi Hall main entrance);
– Library Circulation Desk (Main floor, EMF);
– Athletics & Recreation main desk (2nd floor, Rosaria Student Centre).
Departments can also request a limited one-time supply from Facilities Management.

Campus remains open

As previously announced, campus is open and in-person services are available. As well, many student services are currently being offered both in-person and through remote means (either online or by phone). Please check individual service webpages for more information.

Additionally, residences remain open, with enhanced protocols in place to help keep all residence students safe, for example, visitor restrictions and mask requirements. We have designated spaces and protocols in place to support any students who may need to isolate. Residence Life will continue to update residence students directly. Our RAs, Dons and indeed all residence students have done an exceptional job of ensuring a safe and supportive living environment on campus – kudos!

Staff working arrangements: Our campus is a safe space for learning and working. As we return to on-campus classes, all departments should ensure appropriate staffing levels to serve students and others. Staff who may require temporary alternate working arrangements should consult with their supervisors. Supervisors/managers are asked to keep Human Resources informed of their departmental plans.

Events and meetings: In order to prioritize the transition back to on-campus learning and protect the safety of our learning and working spaces, events should not be held on campus prior to February 14. Updated guidance will be provided as the COVID-19 situation evolves. As well, meetings among faculty and staff should take place virtually to the greatest extent possible.

On-campus COVID-19 testing

At this point, on-campus asymptomatic rapid COVID-19 testing remains available for MSVU students, faculty and staff (note: members of the general public are not able to attend MSVU testing clinics). You may be asked to show your MSVU ID card (available free of charge at the Library front desk if you don’t already have one).

Testing is available in EMF 207 on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Exposure notices

Nova Scotia Public Health has changed its approach with regards to exposure notices and contact tracing. Due to that shift, MSVU will no longer be in a position to issue exposure notices for classrooms or other shared spaces, unless that information/request is provided directly by Public Health. Guidance for those who test positive or are deemed a close contact is available here. Students in Residence who test positive for COVID-19 should notify Residence Life immediately (Lynn.Cashen@msvu.ca).

Need support?

We realize that this pandemic is affecting all of us differently and the supports needed will vary by individual. If you need help with any aspect of the pandemic response, please be in touch. The MSVU community is here to help.

  • Mental health supports
    There’s no question that these are difficult times. The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many. Supports are available.

    • For students: MSVU Counselling Servicescounselling@msvu.ca; Good2Talk NS Helpline for Postsecondary Students: 1-833-292-3698
    • For faculty and staff: Employee & Family Assistance Program (or EFAP) via Morneau Shepell (free, confidential counselling services) – visit the EFAP website or call 1-844-880-9142.
    • For all: Wellness Together Canada is a free, online, 24/7 mental health and substance use support portal provided by the Government of Canada. Visit wellnesstogether.ca or call 1-866-585-0445 (Adults, 18 or older), 1-888-668-6810 (Youth, below 18) or text WELLNESS to 741741 (Adults), 686868 (Youth) to connect with a professional for support.
  • Health Office: MSVU’s Manager of Health Services, Maxine Brewer, RN, is available to advise on COVID-19 related health and safety matters. She can be reached at Maxine.Brewer@msvu.ca.
  • Office of Student Experience: Students with general inquiries can contact the Office of Student Experience at ose@msvu.ca.
  • Centre for Academic Advising and Student Success (CAASS) and Registrar’s Office: Students with questions about academic planning can contact the CAASS at advising@msvu.ca or the Registrar’s Office at registration@msvu.ca.
  • Human Resources: The MSVU Human Resources team is available to assist faculty, staff and supervisors with COVID-19 related personnel matters and can be reached at human.resources@msvu.ca.

In many ways, it feels like we are in the most complex phase of the pandemic yet; we are in the midst of both a shift to COVID-19 being a part of our “new normal” and ongoing concern for what the future holds.

As we have done throughout the past two years, we will continue to closely monitor Public Health advice and adjust our sails as required. And we will keep you informed as we go.

Sincere thanks to all members of our special university community for your continued exemplary commitment to our shared health and safety.

Take care,