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HVCC reverses course and will follow SUNY COVID rules this fall

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

After announcing last week that it would not require COVID-19 vaccinations for in-person students this fall, Hudson Valley Community College in Troy has reversed course.

HVCC's announcement that it would encourage but no longer require incoming students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 didn't set well with SUNY officials and teachers.

HVCC Faculty Association President Robert Whitaker branded the college's decision, first reported by the Times Union, to ignore the SUNY policy "reckless and shortsighted." The Association filed a formal grievance against HVCC, claiming the policy change violated "contractual workplace safety provisions."

"We're relieved that the college finally made the choice to comply with the SUNY COVID-19 student vaccination policy," said Whitaker. "And I think we felt all along that compliance with the policy was really the proper path forward for the college and the college was in compliance, really, up until early July. And we're not sure what prompted them to deviate from that."

College Vice President for Student Affairs Louis Coplin had defended the change, telling WAMC policy was adjusted after complaints from students and their families. He noted that HVCC does not have dormitories and provides hybrid learning options to students.

"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 said.

Last Thursday, Anta Cissé-Green, SUNY's Senior Vice Chancellor & General Counsel, emailed 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.

When Monday came, Ramsammy backtracked, issuing a statement saying in part, "Although our goal was to increase access and remove a barrier to higher education after an extraordinarily difficult time for many students, the college has decided" to remain with SUNY's mandate. Ramsammy also said in the statement that "more than 85 percent of fall semester students" have given the school proof of vaccination.

Whitaker says faculty are looking forward to being back on campus in the classrooms, working with students.

"Many of us choose to teach at Hudson Valley because it's an open enrollment institution and we really care about our students and want to do everything that we can to support them, and help them, and we're glad that the college is complying with this policy," said Whitaker . "We think that complying with a policy is in the best interests of not only the faculty but our students, the staff and the community as well."

A SUNY spokesperson said COVID vaccine requirements remain in place for all 64 campuses in the system, adding SUNY is “pleased” HVCC has decided to comply.

Fall classes begin Monday.

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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