SUNY tells MVCC to comply with system rule requiring unenrollment of unvaccinated students

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Mohawk Valley Community College received a Notice of Non-compliance from the State University of New York Tuesday for not enforcing the state system’s student vaccine mandate.

The SUNY COVID-19 policy required colleges to begin unenrolling unvaccinated students by Sept. 28. Senior Vice-chancellor and General Counsel for SUNY Anta Cisse-Green sent a letter to the college, addressed to MVCC President Randall VanWagoner, stating, “You have expressly stated to SUNY System Administration that Mohawk Valley Community College has decided not to adhere to this policy by refusing to unenroll non-compliant students for the fall 2021 semester, and instead only intends to enforce the policy beginning in the spring 2022 semester. This is a direct violation of and failure to comply with the policy voted upon and mandated by the SUNY Board of Trustees.”

Cisse-Green further warned MVCC that the college must submit documentation showing compliance with the fall unenrollment mandate by Friday.

VanWagoner provided a response to the senior vice-chancellor Tuesday evening, released by SUNY, stating MVCC was “acutely aware” of the SUNY Board of Trustees directive approved June 23. VanWagoner stated that keeping campuses as safe as possible for the fall semester is a goal “that we share and do not take lightly,” and provided a list of actions taken by MVCC in the last several weeks to comply with the directive. Those “actions” were as follows:

“• Based on student demand (opening sections based on waitlists), a full 60% of our fall semester course offerings are remote and only 50% of our students have one or more classes on campus (by their choice). In addition, we also reduced density on campus by intentionally limiting the number of available beds in our residence halls with adequate room for quarantine.

• All of our residence hall students were required to be fully vaccinated prior to move-in. We delayed two students’ entrance into the residence halls due to non-compliance.

• Throughout the fall semester, we have mandated weekly testing for all unvaccinated students with progressive discipline measures and actions for non-compliance communicated to students regularly.

• We continue to promote vaccinations through personal conversations with unvaccinated students at our weekly testing events and have assembled a phone bank of staff to call these students to communicate the value of getting vaccinated, along with the ease of access through the Oneida County-sponsored POD on our Utica campus.

• We have been diligent with our vaccination exemption process, having approved only 6 out of 78 religious exemptions, and with extensive communications regarding medical exemptions, we approved all 11 of those well-documented requests.

• We have already unenrolled 18 students in our nursing and health career programs who were unable to attend their clinicals as a result of the hospital employee vaccination mandate.

• We are making all of our student events and activities require participants to show proof of vaccination to attend in-person, or attend remotely if they are not.

• Per the SUNY COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Section III C: Additional Considerations for Students with Exceptions, MVCC has imposed additional health and safety restrictions including a stricter visitor policy in which: All individuals who may have significant interaction with the campus community must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; And all guests also must wear facial coverings/masks regardless of being fully vaccinated.

• With rare exception (under extra safety protocols), we have eliminated all outside rental groups coming to campus unless all attendees can provide proof of vaccination — this decision impacts a significant number of long-standing community events.

• We have transitioned several on-campus workforce development training programs with local employers to alternative locations off campus to accommodate their employees to the extent possible.

• We have already communicated to students that they must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, less than two weeks away, in order for them to be able to register for spring semester courses beginning Nov. 8.

• We continue to take the vaccine mandate seriously and work diligently on a daily basis to comply with this policy and keep our campuses and locations as safe as possible.”

According to SUNY, 26,000 students got vaccinated over the last two weeks due to the mandate.

“The vast majority of our students — now 98.52% — are in compliance with the state mandate to get vaccinated in order to be on campus. But we still need to get to 100% compliance, and we need every campus, including Mohawk Valley Community College, to help make sure all students are in compliance by the deadline,” said SUNY Press Secretary Holly Liapis Wednesday. “This is a public health and safety issue for all students who wish to learn on campus in a safe environment. With the number of unvaccinated students continuing to decrease across all our campuses, we fully expect Mohawk Valley Community College will continue to do all they can to get remaining students vaccinated and in compliance.”

Cisse-Green did not say what penalties MVCC may face if the college doesn’t comply with the fall semester unenrollment policy.

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