COVID-19 outbreak on McGill University campus prompts crackdown in student housing

McGill University has suspended several students from living on campus after a COVID-19 outbreak was traced back to close-contact gatherings that violated public health restrictions.

“As of Sunday evening 44 students living in residence reported testing positive for COVID-19, 33 of whom are from Royal Victoria College (RVC),” says an open letter published on the school’s website and signed by Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning.

“This increase is, in large part, due to successful contact tracing,” Labeau writes.

As soon as the positive cases were reported, the school began tracing contacts and, in accordance with public health restrictions, ensuring those at medium to high risk are self-isolating.

“As an added precautionary measure, we have also asked all RVC students to get tested, and over the weekend … mobile testing was held in RVC for both students and residences staff,” Labeau says.

Over the weekend, several students were informed that they’re not allowed in their McGill residence for seven days, CBC News has learned.

In Labeau’s letter, he says all the recent cases have been linked back to sustained close contact between students that occurred at — or following — gatherings held in contravention of COVID-19 and residence regulations.  

Failing to comply with the rules can lead to “heavy government fines in addition to University discipline,” the letter says.  

Student rep says about 15 kicked out

A floor representative for McGill’s New Residence Hall says about 15 students were kicked out for seven days.

Multiple students have told CBC that around 15 residents have also been suspended from the Royal Victoria College residence as well. According to the university website, New Residence Hall has a total capacity of 744 students, whereas Royal Victoria can house 266.

The university declined comment when asked about the disciplinary measures, but CBC has obtained an email that was sent to at least one student of New Residence Hall.

The exclusion order accuses the student of violating rules. The student is ordered to vacate the residence by 10 a.m. on Monday, not to be allowed back until Feb. 1.

The advises the student that the school has affiliations with local hotels should the student need a place to stay.

“We have students in distress right now,” said Elisha Mayer, a first-year McGill student and the 15th-floor representative on the New Residence Hall council.

He said the disciplinary measures are extreme and weren’t preceded by a formal warning.

“So they had less than 24-hour notice to leave the premises of McGill,” said Mayer.

“This comes without a warning for them, without a disciplinary meeting or without any other information.”

Mayer says some of the students who were kicked out are minors, which makes it harder for them to rent a temporary room. He says people are scrambling to find friends to stay with, and some international students say they have no choice but to return home.

Mayer says the affected students are also missing out on their meal plans and the sudden expulsion risks depriving them of resources to continue their class work at a crucial time.

“We already have quizzes, exams and not having a place to study or proper Wi-Fi can really make their studies difficult,” he said.

“Especially in the situation we have right now where all of the classes are online.”

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