AMS concerned about lack of communication from University about isolation residences

Society is adapting some services to prevent staff from “working in unsafe or high-risk areas”

The University said the JDUC will continue to be safe for use by all approved occupants.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Though Queen’s has designated the JDUC as an isolation residence, the AMS has raised concerns over how the University will ensure the safety of student workers.

The University told The Journal the residences in the David C. Smith building and the JDUC are ideal for isolation rooms because they have individual bathrooms and controlled access. These residences were also selected with the input of “public health experts to mitigate any risks to others in the area.”

The University has allocated 136 beds in Smith and another 90 in the JDUC for isolation requirements.

Students living in residence who self-identify as having symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for the virus will be moved to an isolation space until they receive direction from a healthcare professional to cease isolation.

“The process for isolation in residence is initiated by students who develop symptoms and need to separate themselves, pending their test results,” Leah Wales, executive director of Housing and Ancillary Services, wrote in a statement to The Journal. 

Wales said students in isolation can expect to have meals delivered and receive a daily video-conference check-in from residence staff to ensure any other needs are met, like laundry or garbage removal.

The University has instructed these students to stay in their isolation space and avoid all contact with others unless they require immediate medical attention.

“We do expect, based on current rates of negative tests within the Kingston community, that many who enter isolation will be negative for COVID-19,” Wales wrote. “If and when a positive case is confirmed, KFL&A Public Health manages contact tracing and we would expect that students would cooperate with all public health requirements.”

“Isolation spaces are a critical part of being able to promote the health and safety of the student population in residence this year.”

Wales said the residency occupancy plans were developed in consultation with the Residence Planning Working Group, a sub-group of the Campus Operations Group, which includes AMS President Jared den Otter as one of two student representatives.

However, den Otter told The Journal that while he was first made aware of the decision by Wales at the meeting, the AMS was not “consulted prior to the University’s decision to designate the JDUC as an isolation residence.”

Den Otter added the AMS recognizes the University’s efforts to create a safe space for self-isolating students but is “discouraged” about the lack of consultation and communication.

“Staff safety is our most important priority, and we will not allow our staff to be working in unsafe or high-risk areas,” den Otter wrote.

AMS Vice-President (Operations) Alexandra Samoyloff explained that the isolation spaces within the JDUC are confined to the residence spaces. She said the AMS has been in contact with Wales regarding the University’s safety protocols and procedures.

“[S]tudents living in the JDUC are not permitted to “roam” the rest of the building in spaces such as the Lower Ceilidh where Walkhome operates,” Samoyloff wrote. “With the protocols in place outlined by the University, students living in the JDUC would never come into contact with AMS service staff.”

The AMS is currently advocating to Housing and Ancillary Services for areas of protocol they believe are lacking.

“Although we were not involved in the creation of the JDUC as an isolation space or in any of the procedures, we are and will continue to push back where needed to ensure not only the safety of our staff, but the wellbeing of students living in the residence,” Samoyloff wrote.

“We want the school to work with us, not against us, to maximize safety and student well-being.”

Wales acknowledged that she has recently been in discussion with the AMS and Student Life Centre (SLC) staff about the safety protocols and has added additional sanitizer stations and signs to promote the health and safety of those who need to be near the residence wing.

She also said the JDUC will continue to be safe for use by all approved occupants.

However, the AMS is still taking precautionary measures.

Julia Andersen, head manager of the Student Life Centre, told The Journal the SLC has made the decision to shift its operations to the Queen’s Centre “based on the lack of safety protocols and cooperation on the side of the University.”

“At this time, the University has failed to provide adequate information that the SLC needs in order to operate safely within the JDUC space this year,” Andersen wrote. “While the residence and public areas of the JDUC are largely viewed as being separate, there are still many areas of concern for us at the SLC.”

For example, though the elevator might be used by individuals testing for COVID-19, the University told Anderson the elevator would only be cleaned twice a day. SLC staff work in close proximity to this elevator and use it to move equipment throughout the building.

When The Journal inquired about safety protocols, Wales said the University has added signed wall-mounted hand sanitizers outside all JDUC residence elevator entrances for use prior to touching any elevator operating buttons. 

Andersen is also concerned about the lack of security measures ensuring that students in isolation remain in their designated spaces, as she said she was told there would be no security or support personnel to discourage students from leaving the isolation area.

“[Due to] the close proximity to the residence space and the lack of security measures in place, we decided that it is not safe for our staff to operate in the same building, and not fair to ask staff to choose between their job and their health,” Andersen wrote.

The SLC will be setting up a temporary information desk in the Queen’s Centre to aid patrons in abiding by safety policies and protocols.

“Should things change, we will assess the situation in order to continue to provide students with safe employment opportunities,” Andersen wrote.

The AMS Food Bank, an essential service for students, is also located near the JDUC isolation residences.

“We are concerned about the JDUC isolation space and how this may impact Food Bank operations and have expressed this to several University administrators,” Max Moloney, head manager of the AMS Food Bank, told The Journal

The Food Bank has been offering a curbside pickup service for patrons since June but is currently working on a fall/winter reopening plan to ensure it can continue to provide services to the Queen’s community.

Caroline Uchida, head manager of the Tricolour Outlet, told The Journal the Tricolour Outlet has relocated its upstairs storage room so staff won’t need to be in that area of the building.

Uchida noted that the Tricolour Outlet wasn’t made aware by the University of COG’s plans to use the residence spaces as an isolation space until after it received approval to reopen. 

“There was little to no communication on their end,” Uchida wrote. 

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