Will CCSU Mandate COVID Vaccines?

Ryan Brooks, Assistant News Editor

As the spring semester comes to a close, for many, the reality of a return to normalcy this fall semester is setting in. However, questions still remain on whether the university will require vaccines as well as how exactly it will handle new interest in online courses. 

 “We’re all hoping that things return to as close to normal as possible,” CCSU Faculty Senate President Fredric Latour told the Recorder. “[However], we’re all [still] wondering if things don’t get normal, if there is a new strain that is just as bad.”  

The United States has been battling a new COVID variant for months. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President, the new variant results in a 50% increase in transmissions over the original coronavirus strain.

To combat this new strain, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Paula Walensky maintains that Americans should get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“The way we can counter [the variant], which is a growing threat in our country, is to do two things: to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with the vaccine that we know works against this variant and, finally, to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time,” Walensky said. 

While CCSU has committed resources to implement health measures via HyFlex technology and other campus safety upgrades, the university is not requiring students to get vaccinated for the fall 2021 semester. 

“President Toro has said that vaccines will not be mandatory because of the process that was used for approval of the vaccines,” Latour said. “My understanding is that the covid vaccine process has been different from other vaccines, [so]  we cannot mandate the vaccines, that is what the president has said whenever she has been asked.”

Latour is still unclear about whether or not CCSU faculty would be required to get vaccines.

“[I have] not been told anything about it being mandatory for faculty. Now, can they? I’m sure if you asked different lawyers you get different answers,” Latour said. “With that being said, people have been very outspoken in terms of encouraging faculty to get the vaccine as early as they can.”

The question that remains at the heart of whether or not universities can mandate vaccines stems from the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) statute from the Food and Drug Administration. 

“The uncertainty has to do with the Emergency Use Authorization being unclear, since the statute says that people who get the vaccine have to be informed that they have the right to accept or refuse it,” according to Dorit Reiss, a Professor of Law at the University of California, in an interview with the CT Mirror. “The question is, what does that mean? Some say if they have the right to accept or refuse, that means no mandate. It just tells people you can’t be held down and given the vaccine. It doesn’t say anything to employers, it doesn’t say anything to universities.” 

Leigh Appleby, the Director of Communications for the CT Board of Regents for Higher Education, told the CT Mirror that there is an internal dialogue going on within the board regarding vaccines

“We have had conversations to look into the possibility of doing as much as we can, and that would include a vaccine requirement,” Appleby said. “No decisions on that have been made, and we’ll have some more information on that as we go forward. But that has been part of conversations, absolutely.”

Regarding the future of online classes at CCSU, Latour said that there is increased interest from faculty in continuing to teach some classes online.

“One thing that is clear is that there are some professors who never taught online before the pandemic, and they tried it, and now they are thinking well, it’s not that bad, it could be something I do in the future,” Latour said. “One question is if we should do more graduate courses online because a lot of them are taking one or two classes per semester and are working full-time, so doing the class online for them might be worth it.” 

While many questions remain with respect to how exactly the fall semester will look, the professor is optimistic.

I’m optimistic that the fall semester will be close to normal, however, I understand that the university must be ready in case something happens, [and] that we need to listen very carefully to what the students want,” Latour said.