As September draws near and we look ahead to the fall semester, nobody's certain just what college and university will look like. Many people agree that learning on campus is more dynamic than learning online, and most students would rather return to in-person classes this fall.
St. Francis Xavier University
In order to provide this, some schools, like Nova Scotia's St. Francis Xavier University (StFX), proposed a COVID-19 waiver: a legal document absolving the school of blame or responsibility should you contract the coronavirus while on campus.
Schools see this as important insurance to help them on campuses to students in the fall. StFX insists that all public health guidelines will be followed, and the waiver is just one piece of a larger puzzle, affirming the risk COVID-19 poses to anyone on campus.
StFX cites insurance concerns as the main driver behind the proposed waiver. Many insurance companies are not offering pandemic-related coverage of big enough scope and timeliness to cover the whole student and staff population of a Canadian university. The waiver was designed as something of a compromise.
Students and staff push back
Students and staff, though, have a different perspective! The proposed waiver sent to students may not be the final draft, but it triggered a wave of resistance. Students cited a lack of consultation from school administrators in imposing the waiver.
StFX has pulled back on its plans for now, to review the process going forward. Whether StFX students and staff will have to sign a COVID-19 waiver for the fall isn't clear just yet, but more details are sure to come.
Waivers for athletes
The idea of a COVID-19 waiver isn't unique to StFX in Nova Scotia. As schools grapple with the risks of the pandemic — and their own insurance coverage — we may see more waivers coming in across Canada and around the world.
In the United States, several schools, including Ohio State and the University of Missouri, require their student athletes to sign waivers absolving the schools of liability for COVID-19 complications. Many athletic associations are asking participants and families to sign waivers to take part in sports.
Campus liability waivers in the future
The practice of liability waivers is fairly common in business circles, but fairly rare on campuses. Could their introduction be just one more change brought on by COVID-19? Or will schools review and retract the need for COVID-19 waivers to attend campus?
Students and staff at StFX made their voices heard, and school administrators are reviewing the waivers. If enough people speak out against the idea, schools will have a hard time implementing them. Many schools may focus more on online learning to minimize liability. On the other hand, if students don't protest the waivers, they may become more common!
Think about your own college or university experience. Would you sign a COVID-19 waiver to go to school on-campus? Or would you turn away from your top-choice school if they asked you to sign? This is just one more thing to think about in our new COVID-inflected reality!
Share your thoughts on waivers in our poll!