Thursday, April 22, 2021
Dear campus community,
As you may have heard, the California State University, in tandem with the University of California, announced today that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for students and employees returning to CSU campuses. This requirement will be conditioned upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as adequate availability of the fully approved vaccines. This requirement will become effective at the beginning of the fall 2021 term, or upon full FDA approval of the vaccine, whichever occurs later.
The CSU will be engaging in discussions with the California State Student Association, the CSU Academic Senate and labor unions before implementing changes to existing immunization requirements, and the requirement will allow students and employees to apply for exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
The CDC has determined that all approved U.S. vaccines are safe and effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting from severe illness. Millions of people in the U.S. have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in the history of the nation. A vaccinated population provides the surest route to vibrant campuses, thriving communities and a robust economy. Evidence continues to accumulate that this lengthy pandemic and resulting social isolation are taking a toll on many, especially our students. Across the country, higher ed has seen reductions in new student enrollment and in retention—and sadly, as with the pandemic itself, this decline is disproportionately impacting BIPOC students. It is imperative that we avail ourselves of every health measure we have at our disposal to bring students back to campus.
The decision by the CSU echoes much of what we are hearing at SF State. Over the past few weeks, we have surveyed our faculty, staff, students and administrators—the overwhelming majority expressed ongoing concerns for health and a commitment to get vaccinated. In the many conversations that we have had with students and colleagues, many expressed support for a mandatory vaccine requirement. In fact, our students and the California State Student Association have been very vocal in their support for this requirement.
For our students who are unable to or concerned about a return to campus in the fall, we continue to plan for flexibility in our schedule, offering in-person and virtual learning options where possible during this transitionary semester. We will also continue to allow flexibility for employees as University operations allow.
While we await details about implementation from the CSU, we will continue to provide information about access to vaccinations. We also hope to continue providing access to vaccinations on campus. I know that this new CSU policy will generate many questions. I ask for your patience. While this is complicated and implementation will require a good deal of work, I am deeply proud that the CSU continues to play a leadership role in making bold public health decisions in support of students.
I am hopeful that this news along with a continued commitment to health and safety protocols will increase comfort levels as we think about and continue planning for our return to campus. Our students need us, and we need one another.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.