Albion College mandates COVID-19 vaccines for students, faculty and staff

The Detroit News

Albion College will require students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in the fall, the school announced Wednesday.

The private school is the first college in Michigan to announce a campus-wide vaccine mandate.

College president Mathew Johnson said in a statement that students, faculty and staff need to present proof of vaccination by Aug. 1 with either the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Medical and religious exemptions will be honored, he added.

“Our focus has been, and remains, managing the risk associated with COVID-19, and prioritizing the health and safety of our entire campus community to ensure we are able to offer the in-person experience our students know and love,” Johnson said. “We are extremely proud of the way our students and entire campus community have responded to our safety protocols, and we’re eager to return to full in-person instruction for the fall semester.”

Johnson's statement said a spring student survey showed almost 80% of respondents wanted a vaccine appointment and nearly 10% said they already were vaccinated or had an appointment. He added that the majority of faculty and staff also have received vaccinations.

The college said more details regarding specifics for submitting documentation through a secure system will be released this summer.

Oakland University announced in April that students living in residence halls would be required to get the vaccine. The University of Michigan followed suit later that month when it said students who are going to live on campus must be fully vaccinated and provide proof to the university by July 15, although it is offering an objection option. About 31% of the 46,170 students enrolled in the most recent UM semester, or about 14,000 students, lived on campus. 

Lawrence Technilogical University also is requiring student-athletes and students living in residence halls to provide proof of vaccination, while Kalamazoo College is requiring students who enroll to get a shot, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle said it has identified 380 schools requiring at least some students or staff to be vaccinated.

UM-Dearborn will have tougher rules than UM's Ann Arbor campus. Campus officials announced in April that students, faculty and staff returning for the fall semester must either provide documentation they have received a COVID-19 vaccine or evidence of a weekly negative PCR test. The requirement is effective beginning Sept. 1, and students, faculty and staff who choose to get tested rather than vaccinated will be responsible for the cost of testing, UM spokeswoman Beth Marmarelli told The Detroit News last month.

There is a push on some Michigan campuses for a broader vaccine mandate like Albion's.

More than 700 Wayne State University professors, staff and students have petitioned the administration to require everyone on campus to be vaccinated to avoid outbreaks and promote safety.

A group of UM instructors is also lobbying president Mark Schlissel to make vaccinations mandatory across the Ann Arbor campus. The petition began circulating earlier this month and was signed by more than 800 professors, lecturers and graduate student teachers, or about 11% of the 7,600 people who teach on UM's campus. 

State lawmakers attached language to proposed state appropriations for higher education that bans the state's 15 public universities from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

The budget is still in the early stages and has not yet been passed. But some regard the language not allowing universities to mandate the vaccine as a potential threat to state funding to public universities, which plays a role in student tuition.