By Gabriela Flores
After receiving pushback for its non-vaccination withdrawal policy, CUNY is considering refunding non-vaccinated students enrolled in hybrid or in-person classes who were withdrawn after Oct. 8. While the final call is pending approval from the Board of Trustees (BOT), the university’s governing body, Brooklyn College’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is planning to possibly sue CUNY for their withdrawal policy on behalf of students.
“The point is to show, ‘Hey, look, yes, we’re students. Some of you might think we’re incompetent, but we’ll see you in court,’” USG Co-President Aharon Grama told The Vanguard, noting that the funds USG will use come from student activity fees.
At the semester’s start, students enrolled in hybrid or in-person classes were required to get vaccinated before entering campus if they did not have an approved religious or medical exemption. The mandate extended to remote-only students who wanted to go on campus at any point during the semester on Sept. 3. Students who did not upload their vaccine verification on CUNYFirst by Sept. 23 were initially facing withdrawal with no refund by CUNY.
Many students university-wide, including USG and BC’s Graduate Student Organization, advocated against CUNY’s lack of clarity on withdrawal guidelines and sudden mandate changes. Before the announcement of potential refunds, USG members had decided to propose a resolution to the Brooklyn College Association (BCA) requesting $1,000 for legal consultation to possibly sue CUNY for their call to withdraw non-vaccinated students.
USG Secretary Emmanuel Valdez was the first to propose the idea of pursuing legal action against CUNY after questioning administrators on why faculty and staff were not mandated to receive vaccination. Cabinet members collectively agreed with Valdez and thought a lawsuit could pressure the university to take their calls against withdrawals more seriously.
In a meeting with BCA last Wednesday, Oct. 13 about passing USG’s resolution, Grama and his colleagues received support from both students and faculty alike.
While the BOT’s approval of withdrawal remains pending, USG members will consult with senate members to gather more opinions on how to go about pursuing legal action. If the university decides to finalize giving back out-of-pocket payments to withdrawn students, however, USG’s initial plan to file an injunction may change.
“There’s no reason to go to a prolonged war with the administration if it’s not needed,” said Grama. Though Grama thinks the refund effort is reasonable and an indication of CUNY acknowledging their concerns, he and his colleagues will attempt to continue their calls for no withdrawals due to non-vaccination.
“I’m not saying that’s the best way to approach dropping students and changing the eligibility in the middle of the semester, but better than nothing, right? At least they’re doing the right thing,” Grama said, “at least giving them [withdrawn students] back the money.”