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  • Grace Brown

Vaccine mandate not so clear-cut

No vaccine mandate on campus: shocking or sensical? (Kyra Laurie)

Since the Orwellian premise of college-mandated vaccination of students first debuted in the early summer months, Canisius hesitated on the decision of whether or not to require vaccines for their students. Gathering survey responses on both the vaccination status of most students, as well as their willingness to attend school virtually versus face to face, Canisius administration seemed interested in student opinions (if not more so their enrollment).

The college finally resolved to not demand students be vaccinated in order to attend classes this fall and has faced considerable heat for the resulting decision. However, considering the recent changes to the college’s financial situation, are the accusations against Canisius administration fair?

Approximately one year ago, colleges faced their first semester of new enrollment following the beginning of the pandemic. Much of the student population seemed uninterested in pursuing higher education without the ability to physically attend classes. Online work not only requires more dedication, but it also feels more exhausting due to the unceasing drain on student attention as classwork follows one from work to home, from the earliest hours of the morning to the latest hours of the night without reprieve.

Universities nationwide reached record low admission rates and, consequently, record-high budget discrepancies. According to the Buffalo News, Canisius projected a $20 million shortfall in the 2020-21 school year, therefore resulting in the termination of numerous employee contracts (including some tenured professors) along with the removal of a few speciality academic opportunities (such as theology studies).

These cuts did not come without retaliation, as alumni, currently enrolled students and faculty alike voiced their severe disapproval and even formally petitioned for the rehiring of unjustly evicted educators.

Regardless, President Hurley claimed “full support of the Board [of Trustees]” as he sought to “maintain a high level educational experience for students.” While the sincerity of his remarks may be difficult to prove, the severity of the ramifications resulting ensure this was not a lightly made decision.

Combined with the various email questionnaires received from the Office of the President this past summer, it would almost appear as though the Canisius administration actually cares about the attitudes and well-being of the student body. This would be a logically vested interest, seeing as the survival of the entire college relies on the tuition dollars of students to function (like any other commercial institution does).

Therefore, one may interpret the animosity towards the school’s lack of vaccine mandate as uncalled for or confusing. The college has demonstrated a clear concern for student ability to participate in curricular activities on campus, along with increasingly devoted effort towards extracurricular activities in the coming academic year as facilities become better equipped to manage the unpredictable pandemic status.

There is an evident dedication to providing students with a quality education while simultaneously refraining from raising tuition prices. In essence, the college is making do; given the incredibly unsavory circumstances it finds itself in over a year after the initial strike of COVID-19, funds are spread thin.

A vaccine mandate could very well result in a large portion of the student population rescinding their enrollment. It cannot be assumed that the values of all attendees complement one another, especially in the remarkably virulent atmosphere of today’s turbulent socioeconomic climate.

Some states aside from New York are going so far as to forbid universities from such sweeping declarations as the vaccine mandates observed in all 64 SUNY schools. Public colleges in Texas and Mississippi, for example, are legally prevented from requiring students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Moreover, despite the lack of a local mandate in Buffalo, students across the city’s many college campuses can consistently be observed wearing masks. Nearly all colleges require masks within classrooms, libraries, gyms and other institutional facilities for all, regardless of vaccination status. Yet it is apparent that most students happily abide by these restrictions in exchange for the opportunity to attend class in person as opposed to virtually, as little effort is made to curtail the collective obligation.

Considering the daunting financial struggles faced by Canisius, the demonstrated interest in student relations and the evident willingness of students to wear masks, the college’s decision not to require mandates should not come as a shock. While some see vaccines as essential to safety, it may very well be that the lack thereof is more integral to survival.

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