By Gabriela Flores
Three days before CUNY students were required to submit their vaccine verification on CUNYFirst, Brooklyn College’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate Student Organization (GSO) wrote a joint executive order calling for the university to not withdraw students who did not meet the deadline. USG and GSO cited students awaiting their second COVID-shot, professors’ online accommodations for unvaccinated students enrolled in hybrid courses, and other issues that CUNY should consider before implementing its vaccine mandate’s “potential academic withdrawal.”
“We all agree that unvaccinated students, at this point, should not be going on campus. Unless they have a medical or religious exception,” USG President Aharon Grama told The Vanguard. “My take on it, as well as the rest of student government, is let’s do it case by case.”
At Brooklyn College, students are being allowed to get vaccinated and submit their verification by Oct. 7, according to BC spokesperson Mara McGinnis. “We understand that CUNY is developing FAQs about its Vaccination Policy to help us understand how we can both increase our vaccination rates and protect students from being withdrawn from classes,” McGinnis wrote in a statement to the Vanguard.
Per CUNY’s vaccine mandate, proof of vaccination was required to be submitted by Sept. 27 on CUNYFirst. Those who did not meet the deadlines could face withdrawal, but CUNY did not elaborate on how campus registrars will implement the policy. “What I’m trying to understand is [if] this is a threat. Is this actually something that is going to happen? And how is it going to happen,” Grama said.
Many Brooklyn College students, besides those who were unvaccinated, contacted Grama and his colleagues for more clarity about CUNY’s vaccine mandate and to ask whether it was applicable to them. Some students had professors who changed the modality of their hybrid or in-person course to online, made previous remote arrangements with their instructors, or had their course modality labeled differently between CUNYFirst and BC Navigator.
In an email obtained by The Vanguard, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Anne Lopes addressed Brooklyn College’s faculty about these issues and clarified that professors cannot change the modality of their courses on their own. All students registered on CUNYFirst for a hybrid or in-person course were required to submit vaccine verification.
“No CUNY courses have been allowed to change what was published in CUNYFirst when students registered,” Lopes wrote in the email. “(…) Students registered for in-person or hybrid courses as listed in CUNYFirst must be vaccinated. No exceptions.”
For Grama and his colleagues, this confusion about the university’s mandate and its withdrawal policy could affect “many people that are not seeing this coming.”
“Let’s play devil’s advocate and say, ‘CUNY has been telling people from the beginning. I can understand that argument. It just doesn’t apply to everyone,” said Grama, who thought that the university gave ample time for vaccine verification to be submitted but did not communicate their mandate clearly or timely for those it affected.
USG and GSO sent their first joint executive order to Brooklyn College administrators and to other CUNY student government presidents. Per Louis Di Meglio’s direction, the two organizations will also create templates for other college government leaders to sign in support.
“I’m hoping this will get the ball rolling,” Grama said.