Albion College is requiring all students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to campus for the planned fully in-person fall semester. Albion is the first college in Michigan to require that everyone on campus get the shot.
Medical and religious exemptions will be granted, and students, faculty, and staff will have until August 1 to submit proof of vaccination.
Kelly Finn is the chief of staff for the president of the University, and has been on Albion's COVID planning team since the beginning of the pandemic.
She says they've consulted many people, including the local health department, students, and their legal team about what the next steps should be, and they're confident in this new direction.
"We really think it’s important for the health and safety of our whole community and to hopefully give students more of the college experience that they know and love and remember, and we’re really hopeful that by the fall we will be able to roll back some of our current policies," she says.
So far, Finn says the student response has been positive. She says they've vaccinated roughly 700, or 25% of their 2765 full- and part-time student population.
"We had seven vaccine clinics throughout the entire semester, so we were using that as sort of a metric to understand how popular the vaccine was with students, and we had an overwhelmingly positive response from not only students, but faculty and staff," she says.
Other Michigan colleges and universities that have put out vaccine mandates are Oakland University, Lawrence Technologial University and the University of Michigan, all of which are requiring students living in university housing to be vaccinated. U of M's Dearborn campus is requiring anyone on campus to have a negative COVID test or proof of a vaccine. Kalamazoo College is requiring all students living in university housing or attending in-person classes to get vaccinated.
The state Legislature's proposed budget would restrict universities from making the COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for enrollment or in-person attendence. Because Albion is a private college, however, Finn says it has different policies and leeway that public schools do not.
"We will continue to seek legal guidance. As we've rolled out this policy, we have worked with our legal team on what's possible and what's not." She adds, "We're certainly not the only institution who is requiring the vaccine, so we'll see how things play out. But yeah, there's nuances in terms of being a private institution. We will work with our legal team on those implications."
State Representative Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, gave the following statement regarding vaccine mandates from public universities.
"We are already seeing public universities attempting to require vaccines. That should not be happening – it is a form of public institution overreach. People are capable of assessing their own risks and making their own decisions. An individual’s decision whether or not to receive a vaccine is personal and should not be coerced or mandated."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to Lawrence Technological University as Lawrence Technical University. It has been corrected.