SALEM — College and universities around the North Shore are have set differing vaccination policies heading into the second fall semester of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some are requiring all students and staff to get vaccinated, while others a setting next to no policy at all.
Salem State University informed its faculty Thursday afternoon that it was extending its student body vaccination mandate to eligible faculty — notably, those who don’t have contracts with clauses interfering with such a vaccine order.
That means employees who are part of local chapters of three regional unions — the Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Massachusetts State College Association — are currently exempt, President John Keenan wrote. But “related conversations with union leaders are being initiated to ensure all members of our campus community, who are not eligible for an exemption, are vaccinated this semester.”
Where schools require vaccination, they also typically explain the process for obtaining religious or medical exemptions. But Montserrat College of Art, a private art school headquartered in Beverly, goes one step further on its employee-specific exemption form to say “philosophical exemptions are not allowed by law in Massachusetts.”
Community Colleges are taking a different approach.
“At this time, all 15 of the Massachusetts community colleges aren’t mandating vaccination, either for employees or students,” said North Shore Community College President William Heineman. “However, we’ve agreed jointly that individual colleges can make a decision about mandating vaccines for certain groups of students where either their academic program requirements or, in some cases, athletic requirements may lead a mandate to be necessary.”
That includes students in the college’s health program, who often find themselves “out in the health care settings,” Heineman said. “Clinical (offices) and some hospitals and nursing homes are already requiring them.”
But at the same time, the college isn’t as worried about whether students and faculty vaccinate because the wide majority of classes are online this semester, according to Heineman.
“A majority of students are choosing to stay remote,” he said. “Based on student surveys that North Shore did back in the spring, we had planned to have anywhere from a quarter to a third of classes on campus this fall, and the rest would remain either totally online or mostly online. And those survey results are turning out to mirror what students are actually choosing.”
Endicott College is requiring vaccines for all members of its community — whether they’re “teaching, attending classes or conducting research on campus, living in residence halls, participating in campus life activities or working on campus.” Those who are fully remote aren’t required to be vaccinated, however, according to the school’s website.
Montserrat College of Art is setting the same standard, its website shows, as it leans on guidance from the American College Health Association and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts.
“In addition to the vaccine requirement, we expect that there will be some testing on campus in the fall, as well as additional COVID precautions,” reads a message from Montserrat President Kurt Steinberg establishing student vaccination requirements. “It is important to recognize that we all play an important role in ensuring that we don’t spread the COVID virus. Widespread vaccination continues to be a critical tool to help stop the pandemic.”