REPORT: Community college changes course to comply with state's vaccine mandate

Hudson Valley Community College told 'Times Union' that they would not require students to be fully vaccinated for the fall semester.

The community college will comply with the system-wide policy that requires students to receive the vaccine, but not staff.

After originally defying the State University of New York System (SUNY) policy requiring in-person students to be vaccinated, Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC), which is within the SUNY system, will reverse course and enforce the vaccine mandate this fall. 

Times Union reported on Aug. 17 that "despite the fact the State University of New York system... requires students to be vaccinated against the virus," HVCC would "allow students to return to classes this fall without a COVID-19 vaccine."

However, HVCC reversed its position five days later.

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In its Aug. 22 statement, HVCC explained that while the “goal was to increase access and remove a barrier to higher education after an extraordinarily difficult time for many students,” it would reinstate the vaccine mandate “to comply with SUNY’s vaccination policy for the fall semester.”

“In short, permitting vaccination to be optional for in-person students is not feasible at this time,” the statement read.

HVCC decided to initially pause the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students in keeping with the expiration of a New York State Executive Order that required vaccination for students, according to the statement.  

Under SUNY policy, however, all returning students are required to be fully vaccinated for the fall 2022 semester, and HVCC adhered to the system at large.

SUNY's mandate, however, does not extend to faculty and staff. 

“Though this New York State directive does not apply to faculty and staff, all SUNY faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated,” the policy states.

This discrepancy, in fact, was cited by HVCC as one reason it looked to make the vaccine optional, along with the lack of dormitories and no mandate for high school students who are double enrolled.

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The statement claims that more than 85% of the student body is vaccinated.

However, staff members were reportedly not happy with HVCC’s original decision to pause the mandate and called it “reckless and short-sighted.”

“To ignore a SUNY policy, based on science, that applies to all campuses, exposes the college to penalties and sanctions from SUNY, which ultimately will only hurt our ability to educate our students," HVCC faculty association president Robert Whitaker told Times Union.

HVCC is located in Troy, New York, in Rensselaer County. According to CDC data, the county currently records a medium community level. Community members in medium county levels are encouraged to wear a face mask only if they qualify as high risk. 

Campus Reform contacted HVCC, Whitaker, and SUNY for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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