As more and more individuals across the country are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, many universities are beginning to mandate vaccines upon return for the Fall 2021 semester.
Numerous colleges and universities across the country have already declared a mandate including state schools, Ivy League colleges, and other institutions. As of August 9, 2021 there are 675 college campuses nationwide mandating the vaccine.
As of August 9, 2021, 33 colleges and universities in the state of Connecticut have declared a vaccine mandate upon the return of students this semester.
Additionally, on July 23, 2021 Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield Conn., announced that the COVID-19 vaccine would be mandated for the student body upon return for the Fall 2021 semester. Students will need proof of at least their first dose in order to return to campus.
Currently, Fairfield has not yet released their plans regarding a mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine in the fall.
An email sent out to students on July 27, 2021 from President Mark R. Nemec Ph.D. stated that “we have full knowledge of and visibility into the vaccination status of individuals across campus, and are pleased to be operating with over 85% of the campus community vaccinated this summer.”
Dr. Nemec also mentioned that while Fairfield is striving towards ensuring everyone on campus returns vaccinated, he notes that religious, medical or cultural reasons may prohibit someone from receiving it. However, “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] projects that even at universities that have mandated the vaccine, upwards of 15% of the population will fall into this category.” This means that regardless of mandating the vaccine or not the percentage of those who choose not to receive it will be around the same.
With regards to whether or not the University is planning to mandate the vaccine, President of the American Association of University Professors, David Crawford Ph.D, stated that “the Public Health Action Team and the Council supported the recommendation [for a mandate.]”
Dr. Crawford also emphasized that Fairfield professors seemed to support the vaccine mandate. At a meeting on June 15, with 50 professors in attendance, he claimed that “nobody spoke against the mandate.”
In his personal opinion, Dr. Crawford believes that the vaccine should be mandated.
“From a practical perspective, I’m unsure how I am supposed to teach in the fall if I have a classroom of mixed vaccinated and unvaccinated people,” Dr. Crawford said. “I would defer to the judgments of the experts in the PHAT [Public Health Advisory Team] group.”
Fairfield’s students have various thoughts in regards to if a mandate is something the University should push forward and if student compliance would be possible.
Rising Junior Caroline McConville is a nursing student who has been vaccinated since early 2021. McConville believes that “in order to get back to the Fairfield we know and love, mandating the vaccine is a big step forward the university can take.”
McConville continued, “I think students for the most part have gotten vaccinated or would comply to do so because everyone is ready to have events back and normalcy to return.”
Junior Sydney Viera agrees with McConville that a mandate would be a positive decision stating, “by enforcing every student to get the vaccine allows another protection for the student body.”
Viera continues, “it gives this new school year hope while the past one was led with fear.”
When asked about how students would react if Fairfield mandated the COVID vaccine, Tess Morrisey ‘23 believes that “it would be a move in the right direction — however divisiveness on the vaccine could cause backlash and conflict within the student body and families in which the university would have to work in accordance with.”
Matthew Zwolinski ‘22 also provided his opinion on whether or not the vaccine should be mandated.
Zwolinski states that “receiving the vaccine should be solely up to the individual,” and that there should not be a mandate. He continued, stating that if the administration did go forward with a campus wide mandate it would “serve as an attack on individualism.”
“As the science has shown, the virus does not particularly affect people within that age range,” He states, mentioning Fairfield’s younger student body, from the ages of 18-22.
He claims that it is “an experimental vaccine that has not been through rigorous FDA testing, we have seen various side effects that have been hitting the younger population. Therefore, it would be foolish for any sort of ruling that would mandate students to receive the vaccine.”
With regards to if the Student Health Center will play a role in pushing the mandate, director of the Student Health Center, Julia Duffy, MS, APRN, FNP-BC, states that the Health Center is “definitely endorsing the COVID-19 vaccine for students.”
There have been several emails sent to students to promote them receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.
Kamala Kiem, Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Student Engagement mentioned in an email that the University will promote the vaccine by “launching a student social media campaign initiative.”
Similar to the Spring 2021 semester, Kiem states there will be “another student raffle to encourage our student community to get vaccinated.”
However, while they are endorsing the vaccine, the health center does not have the direct authority to declare the mandate. Instead that decision is being made at the University’s senior-leadership level.
Additionally, Duffy mentions that the Student Health Center will “certainly be able to facilitate referrals to these community resources and provide transportation if needed. For students who are not yet vaccinated, the Student Health Center is advising students to seek out the COVID-19 vaccine during the summer months for optimal protection during the fall semester.”
Vice President for Student Life Karen Donoghue ‘03 emphasized the fact that the University is planning on continuing to encourage students to get the vaccination as “we are designing our campus this fall with the assumption that the overwhelming majority of our campus community will be vaccinated.”
Whether or not the vaccine will be mandated in the upcoming school year will be in the hands of Provost Christine Siegel and President Nemec.
On July 14, 2021 students received a message from the Inter-Residential Housing Association president, Noah Richardson ‘23.
In the email Richardson relayed that his focus was on how “we want Fairfield University to look this upcoming fall.”
Richardson continues, “only if the university knows that a high percentage of our students have been vaccinated can essential policies like masks, opening residence halls to all students and traditional gathering sizes and events be changed.”
More so, Fairfield University Student Association President Tyler Heffern ‘22 emailed students a statement on behalf of FUSA regarding the vaccine and the upcoming semester.
Heffern stated that as of July 25, 2021 “around 70% of the student body is fully vaccinated”, according to the student checklist documentations.
However, Heffern continues, “the university’s Public Health Advisory Committee, a group of administrators and public health professionals here at Fairfield, recommend that the entire campus community reach a vaccination rate of 85% or higher in order to hold large-scale events and permit a maskless environment.”
This means that if Fairfield University’s vaccination percentage does not rise, certain events such as Presidential’s Ball will be held at a far smaller capacity than in previous years.
Heffern closed the email on behalf of FUSA stating, “unless and until we get our vaccination levels up, the events our students love will not be the same.”
The Mirror will continue to follow up with the University’s decision on whether or not students will be mandated to receive the COVID-19 vaccine upon return to school this fall.