University of Victoria (UVic) faculty, staff and students won’t be seeing a mandatory mask mandate return to campus after all.

On Monday, UVic’s board of governors voted not to accept a recommendation presented by the school’s senate, which called for the mandate to be reinstated and extended past the April exam period.

“The university continues to strongly encourage the use of masks indoors; however, mask use is not mandatory,” the board said in a statement.

Last week, a motion passed by the senate prompted the recommendation to move forward. The special meeting on Thursday saw 19 senate members opposed while 23 were in favour.

Effective March 11th, mask use for most areas on campus shifted from “required” to “strongly encouraged” when close to others in indoor public spaces. Healthcare locations on campus continue to require masks under a separate health order.

The repealed rule came after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that masks would no longer be mandatory in most indoor public spaces across the province.

However, the motion presented by the senate argued, “the university has not tried functioning without masks in the context of a variant as infectious as Omicron, so there is no way of knowing what the impact of removing masks will be.”

UVic’s senate found that dropping the mandate in mid-March “fundamentally altered” the learning and working environment overnight for immunocompromised people on campus.

“It also increases the chance of significant absences of faculty, staff and students leading up to and during the exam period, with the attendant disruptions to teaching and exams,” said the motion.

While mask use is no longer required on campus, UVic says people can still choose what type and quality of mask to use and where they wish to use them.

According to UVic, only two BC post-secondary institutions—the University of British Columbia and Kwantlen Polytechnic University—have indicated that masks are required.

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