Ava Compagnoni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Each day of the COVID pandemic brings another new challenge to Ursinus College. As we all know very well, students were required to be vaccinated before returning to campus in Fall of 2021. The vast majority have been vaccinated, with only a few exceptions. However, faculty and staff were not required to be vaccinated to return teaching in person on campus. Some students were bothered by the fact that the same expectations were not being made of the faculty and staff.
On December 20th, Ursinus announced that faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated by February 10. Dean Mark Schneider explained that faculty had not initially been required to be vaccinated because, “We had never seen any transmission between student and faculty. The faculty were pretty quick to get vaccinated so once we topped that 90% level we just said, ‘we don’t really need to push beyond that at this point.’”
Ursinus made the decision to require faculty to be vaccinated because students can no longer choose to be remote. “Students have to show up to class, faculty have to show up to teach. It seemed really important that the highest level of confidence be surrounding what happens in the classroom. We wanted to make sure that the classroom is a place where everyone feels comfortable,” stated Schneider.
While Ursinus workers will now be required to get vaccinated, employees from outside companies, such as Sodexo and Olympus, cannot be so compelled by the college. This is a concern for some students, since these are the people who prepare food, and students do not wear masks when eating or drinking in the dining hall. Similarly, cleaning staff regularly enter houses, suites, and common areas to clean, in living spaces where students are not required to wear masks. Schneider stated that, “We expect that they [Sodexo and Olympus] will have the same sort of standards on campus as we do, however they’re responsible for doing the enforcement with that. We regularly communicate with our outsider providers and they give us evidence that they are compliant with that. We aren’t taking responsibility to make sure all of their employees are compliant.”
This past Thursday, January 27th, Ursinus held a Pfizer booster clinic with Rite Aid. While the booster is mandatory for students who are eligible, faculty are still not required to get it. “It [the booster clinic] is designed both for faculty and for students, we are encouraging the faculty and staff to do this but it is optional for them at this point,” Schneider said.
Ursinus continues to try to control COVID-19 cases on campus. As Dean Schneider said, “We have to push ourselves to be as normal as we can while keeping the campus safe,” he concluded.