ICYMI: Op-Ed for Daily News on the Critical Need to Get Fully Vaccinated as COVID Cases Continue to Rise

July 30, 2021


Albany, NY – In an op-ed published by The New York Daily News, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras was joined by SUNY Student Assembly President Bradley Hershenson and SUNY United University Professions President Fred Kowal on the critical need to get all students, faculty and staff vaccinated across SUNY campuses. 

Read the op-ed here

Vaccinate New York’s public colleges now

Across the country, we are at a critical moment in our long fight against COVID-19: Either we do our civic duty to get fully vaccinated, or we risk sliding back into rising cases, hospitalizations and fatalities as COVID-19 variants spread in mostly unvaccinated populations. The Centers for Disease Control’s recent modification of its mask guidance is a troubling indication and a clear wake-up call that we’re moving in the wrong direction.

The State University of New York was one of the few large systems in higher education to bring back in-person instruction last year. It was difficult, but at the 64 colleges and universities in the SUNY system, students, faculty and staff have spent a year and a half doing the right things to protect our communities.

Now is not the time to ease up. And now is not the time to put our frontline workers back into the stress and danger of spiking COVID-19 cases.

Therefore, given these circumstances, SUNY has adopted a policy requiring mandatory vaccination of students returning to in-person instruction, but under New York State guidelines that policy doesn’t become effective until the vaccines receive full approval by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

But it’s imperative that faculty and staff get vaccinated as well. As of now, because of labor rules, SUNY cannot on its own mandate faculty and staff be vaccinated.

Therefore, because of the limitations of labor rules and the lack of full FDA approval for students, the State University of New York implemented a comprehensive policy that requires students, faculty and staff be vaccinated or be subject to weekly testing, mask wearing, social distancing, restrictions on housing, and extracurricular activities. New York State, New York City and California have adopted similar programs for their employees and the Biden Administration is considering a similar proposal for federal employees.

In other words, SUNY is leading the way.

But let’s not wait for a full mandate. Let’s take charge of our destiny this fall by getting every SUNY student and staff member vaccinated now, so we can focus on what college should be about — rich classroom learning experiences, new connections, the kinship of sports and clubs, all the things we’ve missed most over the past 18 months.

We are now a little more than halfway through SUNY’s #30DayVaxChallenge to urge students and staff to get vaccinated before returning to campus. SUNY students are leading the effort.

Students and campuses have been sharing the message widely, and asking how they can do more. The short answer? Help spread the word, talk to your friends, peers, and family. Share the facts on your social channels. Vaccinations help protect all of us: our families and friends, our loved ones.

A normal fall semester is within reach. Vaccination is what gets us there. The clock is ticking. It’s time to move forward.

Malatras is chancellor of the State University of New York. Hershenson is president of the SUNY Student Assembly. Kowal is president of the SUNY United University Professions.


About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY's 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.

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