Good Question: Why are SUNY students required to get vaccinated for COVID but not faculty?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Why do some people on SUNY campuses have to be vaccinated but others don’t?

Jim wrote to us saying he’s: “Curious why SUNY mandates COVID shots for students but not faculty. It seems counterintuitive as younger people are a lower risk.”

To answer this, we have to look back to December 2021, when Gov. Kathy Hochul announced SUNY students and faculty would have to be vaccinated against COVID. That mandate did not immediately go into effect for faculty.

The union representing SUNY professors and other faculty, called United University Professions, or UUP, began negotiations with the SUNY system and New York State over a year ago.

In September 2022, a new policy went into effect at SUNY. The policy says students are required to get the shot, but the “directive does not apply to faculty and staff, all SUNY faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.”

The policy also says “certain employees, students, and volunteers at SUNY’s healthcare facilities may be subject to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination pursuant to relevant NYS Department of Health Regulations.”

I reached out to a spokesperson for SUNY, who said “we are obligated to follow union contracts. We do not have the authority to require a mandate for employees if a union is opposed.”

I also contacted the president of UUP, Mike Lisi, for a comment. He says “before negotiations began, both sides agreed that neither would discuss issues on the table in public or with the media.”

I asked the president of UUP directly if the union opposes a vaccine mandate for faculty at SUNY schools. He said he couldn’t give me an answer because that is part of the negotiations with the state and those negotiations are ongoing.

He also said that a 2021 survey of union members showed over 90% of full-time SUNY faculty responded that they were vaccinated against COVID.

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