By Matthew Hirsch
With the fall semester less than a month away, Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson recently published her thirteenth “Return to Campus Letter.” The update, released on Jul. 14, addresses vaccination, mask, and physical distancing policies for the upcoming semester.
Anderson mentions that all CUNY students must be fully vaccinated to take in-person or hybrid courses. However, if faculty and staff refuse the jab, they can submit weekly negative COVID-19 test results instead.
Brooklyn College’s Coronavirus Campus Liaison, Ayana Murray-Richards, told The Vanguard that the university has yet to establish formal guidelines on how these weekly negative test results will be enforced or submitted. Governor Andrew Cuomo made the call for all returning CUNY students to be vaccinated last May, but gave no reason why faculty and staff are not required to do the same.
Anderson speculated in her eleventh “Return to Campus Letter” that a digital vaccine card called the New York State Excelsior Pass will be used to confirm vaccination for the fall. Although there’s no official method yet, a new section was created in CUNYFirst to upload proof of vaccination using the Excelsior Pass.
Anderson further stated in the letter that Brooklyn College will, “continue to encourage everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors.” Though it is not explicitly stated if vaccinated individuals will be required to do so. Unvaccinated people will have to mask up per CDC and CUNY guidelines. Even so, everyone using the library, computer labs, and “other designated study spaces” must wear a mask, despite vaccination status.
The CDC recently changed its policy on indoor masks, stating that all individuals, including those fully vaccinated, should resume wearing masks indoors in areas with high transmission rates. Brooklyn College’s ZIP code, 11210, has a comparatively low case rate per capita to the rest of NYC, according to NYC.gov. However, the area has the seventh-lowest vaccination rate in the five boroughs, with only 36 percent of residents fully vaccinated.
For students who will be on campus in the fall, classes will be held in “larger rooms than they would ordinarily occupy wherever feasible to maximize distance between people,” wrote Anderson. Rotational staff schedules were also created for the fall to minimize the number of people in offices and ease the transition back to campus.
The letter closed with Anderson encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, affirming that Brooklyn College aims to take a “careful and conservative” approach to protect everyone on campus for next semester. She is expected to publish her next reentry letter sometime this week.