ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The State University of New York (SUNY) told students on September 27 to get vaccinated for COVID or risk being kicked out of classes. Two weeks after they started deregistering students, SUNY said only a small number of students still haven’t rolled up their sleeves for the shot.
SUNY reported 99.5% of its students have gotten vaccinated as of Thursday, October 14. They said 1,592 students (mostly commuters) from a limited number of community colleges, are all that’s left of its population to get vaccinated.
“There is a new energy on our campuses this semester because we have fully reopened, and the main reason we’ve been able to, is because our students have stepped up and have gotten vaccinated,” said SUNY Chancellor, Jim Malatras. “Our students have told us they wanted to get back on campus, return to the classrooms, reconnect with their friends, and participate in live, on-campus events, like athletics and the arts.”
First-semester SUNY Albany students told NEWS10 COVID measures were an added stressor. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment and kind of unexpected based off of everything that happened last year,” freshman Taylor Dykeman told NEWS10.
SUNY said it spent months on an “aggressive student-driven awareness” campaign. They said approximately 10,000 students were at risk of getting unregistered for classes when they started contacting those who had not gotten vaccinated yet.
“Overcoming enormous challenges in dealing with the impacts of this pandemic is no stranger to these students, and even after over a year of hardship, they still persisted and rose to the occasion to do their part to protect each other and their entire campus communities,” said SUNY Student Advocate Fellow, Kalief Metellus. “The results we see today are a direct acknowledgment of the immense dedication our students have to their education.”
SUNY also implemented a vaccine mandate for management confidential employees at SUNY system administration. They said 100% of those 550 employees are vaccinated. Additionally, they said 75% of faculty and staff at its 64 locations are vaccinated and that they are working with union representatives to get more vaccinated.
Because SUNY cannot mandate faculty or staff to get vaccinated, they said they have implemented mandatory weekly testing for faculty/staff who are in collective bargaining units. SUNY said it also allowed students a medical or religious exemption.
The state implemented a vaccine mandate for health care workers and eliminated religious exemptions. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday New York could not get rid of religious exemptions. On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul said the state plans to appeal the ruling.