Institutions all require full vaccination before start of 2021 school year
PROVIDENCE — If you want to get the full college experience in Rhode Island, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves.
Regardless of whether you plan on attending the Community College of Rhode Island or Brown University, all public and private institutions of higher education across the state will be requiring students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus in the fall.
At the moment, Rhode Island is the only state in the entire nation where every institution of higher education has mandated its on-campus students to receive the vaccine. The Ocean State has a somewhat unfair advantage in reaching this milestone before others, however, considering the overwhelming number of colleges and universities in Massachusetts, for example, compared to our 11 institutions of higher education.
Still, Gov. Dan McKee, Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott and Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Shannon Gilkey believed this was an accomplishment worth celebrating.
“I am proud that Rhode Island’s institutions of higher education have all stepped up to do what is best to protect their communities and our state,” McKee announced on Tuesday. “We are keeping a close eye on the Delta variant with 73,000 college students, including 48 percent of out of state students, headed back to campus in Rhode Island this fall.”
“I commend our colleges and universities for their thoughtful decision and their efforts to keep Rhode Island healthy this school year and beyond,” he added.
In May, a handful of colleges and universities had already begun mandating its students receive the vaccine if they wanted to return to campus.
Brown University was among the first institutions of higher education in Rhode Island to announce its requirement for students engaged in on-campus classes and activities to receive the vaccine. The requirement is already in play for students participating in the summer session.
The Ivy League’s School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha has been making national headlines since the onset of the pandemic, lending his voice as an expert to cable news outlets during prime time hours, and penning numerous columns for major newspapers like the New York Times. In recent months, he has been highlighting the vaccine hesitancy seen throughout the country, and the risks that variants are now posing to communities with low vaccination rates.
“Any time you have large outbreaks, it does become a breeding ground for potentially more variants,” Jha told CNN last week.
In Providence, the Rhode Island School of Design and Johnston and Wales University were also among the first institutions to come out with a vaccine requirement for its students.
About a week afterward, Providence College President The Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard announced that following “a period of deliberate consideration,” administrators had decided to require all its undergraduate and graduate students to receive the vaccine for fall.
“We made this decision by returning to the core principles that have guided our decision-making since the pandemic began more than a year ago,” Sicard announced on May 27. “Our first imperative is to protect the health and safety of all those in our community, closely followed by our commitment to providing – to the greatest extent possible – the full academic and community Providence College experience to our students.”
“Science has given us, by the grace of God, the vaccines that make it possible for us to achieve both those goals,” his statement continued. “With our students vaccinated, we will be able to return to on-campus living and learning much like it was before the pandemic.”
Similarly, Salve Regina University in Newport has been carefully considering whether or not to require the vaccine of its students this spring, as news of mandates from other colleges and universities was beginning to come out.
In early June, it was announced that “after continued review and careful deliberation, Salve Regina will require that all members of its community, including students, faculty and staff, obtain a COVID-19 vaccine” for the upcoming academic year by Aug. 1.
In late June, the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College joined the list of higher education institutions requiring its students to get vaccinated.
On June 30, Bryant University in Smithfield announced it would require all students to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to their arrival on campus this fall, “except for those students with exemptions for medical, religious or other reasons.”
Representatives from all Rhode Island colleges and universities met often during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gilkey, to discuss mitigation strategies and to submit reopening strategies for Fall 2021.
“Rhode Island will be a safer state because of the actions of the 11 colleges and universities, and I want to thank all of the college presidents and their teams for their proactive and positive responses during this pandemic to ensure that their campuses are open for in-person learning,” he said.“Fully reopening all the campuses enormously helps our state’s economic recovery, particularly among the small businesses that serve the college communities.”