Requiring CUNY faculty and staff, not just students, to be vaccinated is vital

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The Editorial Board

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on May 10 that CUNY students attending in- person classes in the fall will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

“There is no factual argument against the vaccine, and there is no excuse not to get your shot,” Cuomo said. “This vaccine is the weapon that will help us win the war on COVID, and so I urge everyone who still needs to take it to do so quickly at one of our many sites across the state.”

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez echoed these thoughts, emphasizing the need for such a compulsory and absolute rule.

“If I were a student who has not yet been vaccinated, I would not delay getting the vaccine,” he wrote in a letter directed at students. “I cannot say it strongly enough: This is the most important thing each of us can do to keep the coronavirus under control moving forward.”

Cuomo’s and Matos Rodríguez’s logic, however, fails to hold up under scrutiny when considering that the mandate will not be applied to CUNY faculty and staff.

“To ensure a successful and safe return, I strongly urge each of you to get vaccinated,” Matos Rodríguez said in a letter to his colleagues on May 13. “As I’m sure you are aware, Governor Cuomo announced this week that all CUNY and SUNY students will be required to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes in the fall. That mandate does not include faculty and staff but getting vaccinated is the most important step that each of us can take to protect our collective safety moving forward.”

Why are students required to receive a vaccine, while faculty and staff are simply “encouraged?” According to Cuomo, there is no excuse not to — and yet, a large portion of the CUNY community is being excused from the rule.

If vaccination is so incredibly important and necessary for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which it is, then the mandate should include faculty and staff.

According to the European University Institute, the average age of full-time professors in the United States is 55.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “older unvaccinated adults are more likely to be hospitalized or die … the risk [to get very sick from COVID-19] increases for people in their 50s and increases in 60s, 70s, and 80s.”page1image32593536

Many students have had young professors, however, it is still true that generally the faculty and staff, as a whole, are an older population group.

If CUNY was to mandate one group of people and not the other, it logically follows that faculty and staff would be vaccinated first, as their health is at greater risk.

It also logically follows that the institution would mandate rules for its employees first, rather than its “customers.”

There is no guidance on the CDC’s website that states that faculty and staff are less likely to get sick. If Cuomo and CUNY’s decision was informed by science, then there shouldn’t be a double standard.

Since COVID-19 poses a degree of risk to everyone — regardless of age, gender, occupation, race, etc. — then so must the vaccine mandate.

Exemptions that apply to CUNY’s employees should also apply to its students. Similarly, rules that “protect our collective safety” applied to its students should also apply to its employees.

The fact that faculty and staff are not required to get the vaccine undermines every reason cited as to why students have to.

The administration has provided no explanation or justification for this rule. As a result, students can only assume that the mandate was put into place arbitrarily, unfairly and discriminately.