Shepard: The overwhelming majority of Western students follow health and safety rules

From the beginning, Western faculty, staff and students have demonstrated exceptional resilience and adapted excellently to the challenges and uncertainties of the time.

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It feels great to see the students back on campus.

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Her energy has been sorely missed at Western University, so we are very excited to welcome her home.

After 18 months of social isolation and online learning, it’s easy to see why they’re excited about returning to face-to-face classes and meeting up with friends.

We have worked hard to make sure these activities can take place in safe, controlled environments.

And despite the actions of some, we know that the vast majority of our students adhere to health and safety protocols.

As we’ve said since the early days of the pandemic, prioritizing health and safety while providing the best possible education to students requires that everyone on our campus do their part to care for themselves, one another and the community.

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From the beginning, Western faculty, staff and students have demonstrated exceptional resilience and adapted excellently to the challenges and uncertainties of the time.

Our plan for a safe return to campus this fall was developed over the summer. It was informed through advice and instruction from health officials, governments, community members, and infectious disease experts.

The key to the plan is a strong vaccination policy and a comprehensive package of health and safety measures.

These include mandatory indoor masks, high ventilation standards, daily health checkups, an on-campus vaccination and testing center, improved cleaning, and wastewater testing.

We are also ready to switch quickly if circumstances change or new instructions from governments and health authorities dictate.

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Alan Shepard, President of Western University (Heather Rivers / The London Free Press)
Alan Shepard, President of Western University (Heather Rivers / The London Free Press)

We continue to promote vaccinations and track participation rates among parishioners. The uptake is high. 97 percent of the employees are vaccinated. Of the students who live in campus dormitories, 99 percent are vaccinated, while the broader student population is 98 percent.

We know that face-to-face learning and collaboration are best for student success, mental health, and well-being. That is why we do everything we can to support this type of teaching.

We also know that our students and the wider campus community are a huge influence on London.

If you add all of the students, faculty, and staff at Western and its affiliated colleges, the university community consists of 50,000 people.

That’s roughly one in ten London residents with a personal connection to Western, Huron, Brescia, or King’s – not to mention about 59,000 Londoners who have a degree in Western.

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On a global level, our more than 328,000 alumni are committed to communities in around 120 countries worldwide – every graduate is an ambassador for our city and university.

The social and cultural influence of Westerns on the London area is also immense.

Every year, thousands of Western students develop their skills and share their expertise by working in local hospitals, clinics, schools, community organizations and businesses through a variety of internship and experiential learning programs.

Western’s new strategic plan, unveiled earlier this year, sets bold efforts to do even more for the community as our university nears its 150th birthday in 2028.

The plan’s top priorities include strengthening partnerships with the City of London, local and regional schools and hospitals, healthcare partners, industry, community organizations and nearby indigenous communities.

Throughout the planning process, I realized how proud Western is to be based in London and how much we are committed to the success, health and prosperity of the community.

This commitment is stronger and more important than ever as we work to safely welcome our students back to the city and campus they love.

Alan Shepard is the President of Western University

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