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SUNY orders HVCC to comply with system-wide COVID rules

The campus of Hudson Valley Community College
Facebook: Hudson Valley Community College

Hudson Valley Community College in Troy is being ordered to comply with SUNY's system-wide COVID rules.

Thursday Anta Cissé-Green, SUNY's Senior Vice Chancellor & General Counsel, emailed Hudson Valley Community College President Roger Ramsammy a "letter of non-compliance," directing HVCC to submit documentation by Monday showing the college’s compliance with vaccine policy mandated by the Board of Trustees that oversees the 64-campus university system.

The letter further mandates "the immediate correction of the information on the HVCC website regarding student compliance with the Policy and a description of how HVCC will be enforcing the Policy vaccination requirements."

On its website SUNY says all students must be fully vaccinated before returning to campus for the fall semester, with boosters strongly encouraged for those eligible. SUNY campuses may determine their own indoor mask mandates and are advised to continue mandatory weekly testing for anyone on campus who has an approved exemption from vaccination or for any employee who has not provided proof of vaccination. Campuses also must continue to report all testing results daily through the SUNY Health Portal.

As the Times Union first reported, earlier this week HVCC announced it would encourage but no longer require incoming students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

College Vice President for Student Affairs Louis Coplin told WAMC the change was made after complaints from students and their families, adding that HVCC does not have dormitories and provides hybrid learning options to students.

"We made our decision to encourage as opposed to mandate the vaccine policy, based on the number of complaints and concerns from our students and their families and their parents complaining to us that it's an unfair system," Coplin said. "Our student leaders have written to the campus leadership and feel that it's unfair that they are being required to be vaccinated and faculty and employees are not."

Coplin pointed out that 85 percent of incoming students are vaccinated against COVID-19.

"If the institution SUNY is concerned about the safety and well-being of the entire campus community, the same mandate should be imposed on employees," said Coplin. "So we spent a lot of time trying to explain that, which for all intents and purposes have been futile. So we made an institutional decision to encourage, we're not relaxing the policy to the point where students don't have to, we’re encouraging it, we offer clinics on campus, on a weekly basis, we administer the take home test, we're just not preventing them from completing the enrollment process. Our hope and expectation is through that interpersonal communication with students who are being accepted, or being advised is to indeed get vaccinated."

HVCC Faculty Association President Robert Whitaker, calling the move reckless and shortsighted, questioned the college's decision to ignore the SUNY policy.

"We're completely perplexed as to why Hudson Valley Community College has taken this step when all other campuses in the system are following the policy," said Whitaker. "This is a SUNY directive. It is not 'Choose Your Own Adventure' and we think that the policy is the best way to protect everyone on the campus. The college has claimed that it is unfair to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students, but not for faculty and staff. The Faculty Association at Hudson Valley has offered to the college for more than a year to negotiate COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the faculty. We've offered to do that through established collective bargaining procedures college has repeatedly refused."

The Association has filed a formal grievance against HVCC, claiming the policy change “violates contractual workplace safety provisions.”

HVCC classes resume August 29.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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