The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities governing board approved a policy Thursday that will require students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in person this fall.
The policy states that any student who is participating “in any on-campus activities in person for any reason at any of the institutions” will have to be fully vaccinated and report their compliance to the college or university they are attending.
“The vaccines that are currently authorized in the United States are safe, effective, and critical to resuming normal operations at our campuses this fall,” CSCU Interim President Jane Gates said in a statement. “Now is the time for students planning on attending college this fall to get vaccinated. With more infectious, more severe variants becoming more and more prevalent, getting your shot is the best way to protect yourself, your family and our communities.”
CSCU joins the University of Connecticut and several of the state’s private colleges, including Yale, Wesleyan, Quinnipiac, Trinity and Connecticut College, in making student vaccinations mandatory in the fall. The University of Hartford also recently announced that its students will also need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vaccines authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization will be allowed for international students planning to attend CSCU schools in-person this fall. They will also have to present proof of their vaccination. The policy states that the documentation must be submitted in English or translated, and those who receive a vaccine not authorized by the FDA or WHO “will be managed on a case-by-case basis.”
The policy states that students may request medical and non-medical exemptions, and students who receive an exemption or who do not receive a vaccine before the start of the fall semester will be required to follow preventative measures implemented by the colleges or universities that may include a modified quarantine, surveillance testing and wearing a mask.
Audrey Nielsen, student regent and chair of the board’s student advisory committee, said during the meeting that although she fully supports requiring COVID vaccines this fall, students have raised concerns about medical exemptions and want more specifics about modified quarantine, mask-wearing and testing mandates.
“The student recommends that the Board of Regents consider expanding policy to explore the amount of time students spend on-campus, requirements for students only online versus part-time versus full time, and establishing specific resources for students to stay fully online if that’s available to them if they are unable to get the vaccine,” Nielsen told the board.
The policy does not require campus faculty and employees to be vaccinated. It will be up to CSU presidents to implement policies for them.
“Addressing this matter as it applies to employees is more complicated,” Ernestine Weaver, legal counsel for the board of regents, said on Thursday. “In order to require unionized employees to be vaccinated, we must receive consent from each of the employee bargaining units. … Gaining these consents is a large undertaking, and it was not possible to secure these consents in time for today’s meeting.”
David Blitz, chair of the board’s faculty advisory committee and philosophy professor at Central Connecticut State University, said he has been communicating with CSCU employee unions and that the CSU-AAUP council endorses mandatory vaccinations but is waiting to hear back from other unions. Blitz added that he is “optimistic that, like AAUP, they will approve in principle of mandatory vaccination for their members.”
During Thursday’s meeting, professors from the regional universities spoke in favor of requiring vaccines. Jess Kraybill, an assistant professor at Western Connecticut State University, said she contracted COVID last March and had to take a semester off to focus on her health. Kraybill added that 15 months later, she is still experiencing symptoms and urged the board to require vaccines because she doesn’t “want anyone else to go through what I’ve had to go through these past 15 months.”
“I’m vaccinated against COVID now,” Kraybill said. “I am acutely aware that because of my now weakened immune system. I’m at a much greater risk of getting COVID again even though I’m vaccinated. I’m also at a much greater risk of dying should I get COVID again. I love my job and I don’t want to have to die because of it.”