Dear Teachers College Community,
Today, with last night’s fabulous Convocation ceremony behind us, I am writing to report an important decision that Teachers College has made as part of our ongoing effort to keep our community safe while we prepare for substantial in-person instruction and campus activities, starting with the Fall 2021 semester.
As I reported in last week’s message to the Teachers College community, Columbia University has mandated the COVID-19 Vaccine for all students who plan to be in-person for the Fall 2021 semester. After consulting with our Columbia colleagues and with public health experts, Teachers College has decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. All TC students who will be present on our campus or participating in TC-sponsored events – and everyone living in campus student housing – must be fully vaccinated before returning to campus. In accordance with New York State public health laws, we will accommodate religious and medical exemptions, as we do for other vaccines.
We have not come to this decision lightly. We regard mandatory vaccination as essential to keeping everyone in our community healthy and safe and to helping protect the greater Columbia University community, our neighbors in Morningside Heights and Harlem, and the rest of the New York City area against another outbreak of the coronavirus.
The vaccine mandate for students will be integrated into our policies and procedures to access the TC Campus for the Fall 2021 semester. For more information on access to campus this fall, updated information will be included on our “Campus Life During COVID-19” section of TC’s Preparedness site.
Meanwhile, our current campus access procedures will continue to be in place and enforced. This includes COVID-19 PCR diagnostic testing and public health protocols, including face covering and physical distancing. Cooperation with our procedures and adherence to our policies have proved effective in keeping us safe and maintaining a low positivity rate on campus over this past year. Getting everyone fully vaccinated will bring us that much closer to the full resumption of normal campus life that we all yearn for.
However, we must remain vigilant. While cases and hospitalization in New York City and State have declined sharply over the past two weeks, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 remains high. While more than 11 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, many more people need to be vaccinated in order to realize the anticipated protective effects.
Still, we are working toward a far brighter picture once the fall term starts in September.
Since mid-December 2020, in partnership with New York-Presbyterian Hospital, many of our faculty, staff, and students have been vaccinated at several vaccination sites. Many more have been vaccinated in their own communities in New York State and beyond. Columbia now operates three locations that provide vaccinations to the Columbia community and its affiliates. Two of these locations offer the vaccine to their family members, as well as to other patients. Additionally, Columbia has launched a pop-up weekend vaccination site for the surrounding community at the Forum in Manhattanville, where nearly 700 people received shots over the past two weekends.
Our Columbia-operated sites will offer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines throughout the coming months, and we are committed to helping returning students get fully vaccinated if they have encountered difficulties receiving their shots.
However, please do not wait. We strongly encourage everyone, including international students, to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. We will announce more details related to this policy in the coming weeks, and will monitor the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for further changes in policies and guidance. We will continue to update the COVID-19 Campus Life website in the coming weeks with more information, including: how to get vaccinated in the fall; deadlines for when students must be vaccinated; how to document that you have been vaccinated; and how to apply for a religious or medical exemption.
All students will receive a series of updates about these plans in the coming weeks and months. As our fall plans continue to take shape, our goal remains the same: To warmly and safely welcome back to campus all who are able to join us in person.
Take care of yourselves and one another.
President, Teachers College