MONTREAL -- As McGill University starts classes for the fall semester, members of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) opted for the front lawn over the classroom to protest the school's decision not to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to be on campus.

"A disturbing lack of empathy by administration. Students, professors and staff need accommodations, whether they are for themselves or for their loved ones," reads a tweet by the SSMU.

If proof of vaccine will not be made mandatory on campus, the students say they want testing sites to be made available -- especially for those living in dorms. In addition, the students want the option to learn remotely, a  well as mandatory contact tracing on campus.

"It's weird that we're being so safe about everything except mandatory vaccines," said student Danielle Allard.

"My professors are literally writing letters to the school telling them that they're legally obliged to take measures and they're not," said student Daniel Tamblyn-Watts.

They also complain that the university is not being accomodating to immunocompromised students.

"I could possibly lose my funding to be here if I took a year off as the admin has suggested," said immunocompromised student Emily Black. "I could lose my spot here."

McGill says it is requiring students to wear masks indoors at all times to keep in tune with Quebec public health recommendations, but there will be no distancing required in classrooms. Employees have been asked to fill out daily self-assessment forms before coming to campus.

"Our utmost priority has always been the health and safety of our students and staff. McGill University has been working with and continues to work with the various government authorities to align with directives, to adapt our plans, and to put in place the necessary measures that will ensure the successful return of students and employees to our campuses this Fall," McGill media relations officer Frederique Mazerolle said. 

"At this point in time, our view is that unless the government mandates vaccination, in the Quebec context we cannot legally require it. Based on the most recent figures received from the government authorities, more than 85 per cent of our students are vaccinated. There is a very high degree of certainty that most at-risk people will be vaccinated."

Mazerolle added that VaxiCode passports will be required to access a wide range of non-essential activities on and off-campus.

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition demanding McGill make vaccines mandatory for students on campus.

This week, the Legault government announced vaccinations will be made mandatory for health care workers and students in health-care programs.

That rule will not apply for those in other departments.