Dr. Julie Ponesse is an ethics professor at Ontario’s Huron University College and has been employed at this University for 20 years. On Tuesday, September 7, she emailed her department head that she would not comply with the school’s Covid requirements, including vaccination, wearing a mask, or bi-weekly testing. The response she received stated, “[she]will be placed on a temporary paid leave, and you will not be allowed to attend campus.”
Ponesse has a Ph.D. in ethics and asked her students a simple ethics question in her first teaching video of the year. The video went viral and was promptly removed from Youtube.
In the video, she asks, “When a person has done the same job to the satisfaction of her employer for 20 years, is it right, or is it wrong to suddenly demand that they submit to an unnecessary medical procedure in order to keep their job? The employee is not allowed to ask questions. She may only submit to the procedure or be fired. To my first-year students, is this right or is this wrong?”
She began the video by telling students that it is ethically wrong to force someone to take a vaccine as a professor of ethics. She says, “If it happens to you, you don’t have to do it. If you don’t want a COVID vaccine, don’t take one. End of discussion. It’s your own business.” She went on to explain that she has received many vaccines in her life and is not an “anti-vaxxer.” She questioned the efficacy of the vaccine stating she could still transmit Covid even after being vaccinated. She said she had written to the dean expressing her concerns weeks ago, hoping she would receive support. She wishes to get help from Huron University College Faculty Association but notes that many unions support vaccine mandates.
Huron University College requires anyone on campus to be fully vaccinated unless they have an exemption. Those with a medical, creed, or religious exemption must be tested twice a week. If a person does not have an exemption, there is no option to test. They must receive a vaccination if they wish to be permitted on campus. Ponesse is not seeking an exemption, rather outright rejecting it. She says, “I don’t think we ever should have been in the place where we’re looking at the situation of mandates, so I’m not just seeking an exemption to one; I’m challenging the very foundation of the idea.”
She ended the video by expressing her ethical concern about government policies that force compliance. “As Canadians, as rational, autonomous people, my view is that we have a right to decide what goes into our body, even if we have the worst reasons for it,” Ponesse said. She has since reached out to HR to determine what course of action they’ll take and what any future termination may look like. Drew Davidson, the spokesman for Huron, wrote, “While I can’t comment on individual HR matters, I can confirm to you that at this time, no one at Huron has been dismissed as a result of this policy.”
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