If the goal of mandating that students on SUNY college campuses is to ensure the health and safety of the individuals, then how can the mandate not apply to college instructors and staff?
Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said covid shots would be required for all 400,000 SUNY students this fall.
But the mandate didn’t mention the university system’s more than 50,000 employees. (More on that in a minute.)
It makes perfect sense for students to be vaccinated.
They live and learn in close quarters, and college campuses could easily become super-spreader sites for a new outbreak that could make a lot of people sick and force colleges to quarantine students and return to remote learning.
Nobody wants that.
And since SUNY students are already required to be inoculated against measles and other diseases, mandating another vaccination is not unreasonable.
But what about the staff, the people who interact with students and one another on a regular basis on campus?
The issue isn’t so much with the government in this case, but with the unions that represent the college employees.
Any requirement for vaccinations, which the state doesn’t have in place right now, would likely have to be negotiated with the various unions that represent the different groups of employees.
After the measles outbreak of 2019 reinforced the value of inoculations, state officials should have moved quickly to mandate staff vaccinations on campuses and begun negotiations with the unions to either require employees be inoculated or to allow the state to require inoculations during public health emergencies like the covid pandemic.
Now that the country is moving quickly toward reopening thanks in large part to mass inoculation, it’s only reasonable that the state and the public employee unions get together quickly to agree on some kind of vaccination mandate now and for the future.
In the interim, the unions should push the remainder of their employees who so far haven’t gotten vaccinated to get their covid shots before they return to campus, emphasizing the overall safety of the vaccines and the need to protect fellow staffers, students and campus visitors.
If that includes negotiating financial incentives like paid time off to get all employees vaccinated, they need to do it.
We’ve seen the vast human and economic costs of being unprepared for a mass wave of illness.
And certainly, this will not be the last time we face a threat from covid-19 or the next virulent virus.
As we’ve seen, college campuses are ideally vulnerable to outbreaks.
Requiring the students to be vaccinated while excluding the staff is just inviting trouble.