Smith College will require students to be vaccinated

  • The grounds on the west side of the Ruth Simmons wing of the renovated Neilson Library at Smith College have been terraced into an amphitheater that opens onto Burton Lawn. Photographed on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2021 8:47:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College announced Wednesday afternoon that all students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in the fall, becoming the first of the Five Colleges to enforce this requirement.

At around the same time, Holyoke Community College — and all community colleges in the state — conversely said that it will not require COVID-19 vaccinations, citing barriers to getting the vaccine that raise equity concerns.

In a letter posted on the Smith website, college President Kathleen McCartney said Smith has secured enough Pfizer-BioNTech doses to vaccinate all undergraduate and graduate students who participate in the college’s COVID-19 screening service, which provides testing for the virus twice per week. The college will hold two on-campus vaccine clinics for these students on April 24 and 25.

McCartney said that these clinics “will reduce the burden on local vaccination clinics and give students the opportunity to schedule and receive both vaccine doses prior to the college’s move-out date.”

When asked whether staff and faculty will also be required to get vaccinated, and whether the college will also provide vaccines for employees, a Smith College spokeswoman said the Wednesday announcement “pertains only to students.”

The college will evaluate exemptions for medical or religious reasons on a case-by-case basis, according to McCartney. Smith will also assist international students and others who cannot access the vaccine before the start of the fall semester.

Last week, other members of the Five College Consortium said that they were still evaluating whether they will enforce COVID-19 vaccination. An increasing number of colleges and universities around the country are announcing that they will require vaccination.

On the same day that Smith announced that it will require vaccinations for students, Holyoke Community College said that vaccination is “strongly encouraged,” but will not be required before students return to campus in the fall.

“We are aware that some residential colleges have announced vaccine mandates for students before they return to campus,” HCC President Christina Royal said in a statement. “As of this moment, HCC does not have such a policy for students who elect to take in-person classes in the fall.”

HCC joins the state’s 14 other community colleges in adopting this policy. In a joint statement, Massachusetts community college leaders said fall semester policies could change, but that “it is essential that we meet the needs of all of our students, who are often from the communities hit hardest by this pandemic and facing disproportionate access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“And now, it is more important than ever to prioritize equity, and creating additional barriers for our students would go against our critically important mission of open access for all,” the statement reads.

In the fall, HCC will offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and remote classes, including about 400 classes with at least some in-person instruction, and will continue following public health measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Department of Public Health, Royal said. For the past year, HCC has operated on a mostly remote basis.




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