Dear Members of the TC Community,
In my April 30th message to the TC community, I informed you of the College’s decision to require vaccination for all students who will be present on campus for the fall 2021 semester. Since then, as many of you may have read, Columbia University and other colleges and universities have also decided to require faculty and staff to be vaccinated in the fall.
I write today to report that, after continued consultation with our Columbia colleagues and public health experts, Teachers College has decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for faculty and staff who are returning to campus. Full vaccination should be completed as soon as possible, but no later than August 1, 2021, in preparation for the fall semester.
All faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated before returning to campus. We strongly encourage all members of the TC community to take this opportunity to get vaccinated if you have not done so already.
Information about the vaccine mandate is available on the “Campus Life During COVID-19” section of TC’s Preparedness site. The site will be updated as details are announced in the coming weeks, including: how to get vaccinated in preparation for the fall and how to document that you have been vaccinated. The College will accept all vaccinations that have received Emergency Use Authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. We will work closely with our union partners regarding the implementation of the vaccine mandate for union employees. In accordance with New York State public health laws, the College will accommodate religious and medical exemptions, as we do for other vaccines.
If you have not yet received a vaccine, Columbia is continuing to offer vaccinations to the Columbia community and its affiliates at multiple locations. As a reminder, employees will be provided paid time off should their vaccination appointment fall during the scheduled work day. You can schedule a vaccine at Lerner Hall by clicking here; or visit vaccinetogetherny.org to make an appointment at other Columbia locations. We also recently announced that Hartley Pharmacy, located at 1219 Amsterdam Avenue and West 120th Street, is providing vaccinations. (Contact the pharmacy directly for information.) Additionally, all members of the TC community can be vaccinated at any of the New York City or New York State public vaccination sites. We will continue to update the TC community about opportunities to be vaccinated through Columbia and elsewhere as we are informed about opportunities.
Like our decision to require vaccination for students on campus, expanding the vaccination requirement to include faculty and staff aims to ensure the health and safety of the TC community as well as the broader Columbia University community, our neighbors in Morningside Heights and Harlem, and the rest of the New York City area. A high rate of vaccination is essential to support a safe return to in-person operations. Fortunately, we now have access to several vaccines that have excellent safety and efficacy profiles and offer strong protection against COVID-19. We also expect that one or more of the three vaccines currently available under Emergency Use Authorization in the US will be given full approval by the FDA before the start of the fall semester.
Information about the vaccine mandate will continue to be incorporated into our policies and procedures to access the TC campus for the fall 2021 semester. In the meantime, our current campus access requirements, including COVID-19 PCR diagnostic testing, use of face covering, and physical distancing, will continue to be in place and enforced.
We appreciate that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State have recently updated their guidance to indicate that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear face coverings or physically distance in most business and public settings, with exceptions that include public transportation, healthcare facilities, and pre-K-12 schools. Additionally, private businesses can still require the use of face coverings in their facilities.
We will evaluate and may adjust our health and safety protocols and requirements based on the vaccination mandate, updated guidance from the CDC and State, and on ongoing consultation with our Columbia colleagues and public health officials. We will, of course, continue to provide updates as our plans take shape in the coming weeks and months.
I greatly appreciate your cooperation and adherence to our health and safety measures that have helped to keep our community safe over the past 14 months. Now, the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, combined with our other precautionary measures, will help to support a safe return to substantial in-person instruction and campus activities this fall.
In the meantime, as we eagerly look forward to TC “Coming Together” in person once again, please continue to look after yourselves and one another.
President, Teachers College