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Employees Worry About Cal State University 'Patchwork' Approach To Vaccinations

The library at California State University, Northridge. (Photo via Cal State Northridge/Facebook)
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Like colleges nationwide, California universities are beginning to reveal whether they'll require students to be vaccinated if they want to return to campus in the fall.

Employees Worry About Cal State University 'Patchwork' Approach To Vaccinations

Chico State told its students this month that those wishing to live in the dorms in the fall, as well as student athletes, will be required to have a COVID-19 vaccination. Cal State Long Beach will require proof of vaccination by June 1 from students wishing to live in the dorms in the fall.

Cal State Fullerton is taking the opposite approach.

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"[W]e are not requiring students to be vaccinated at this time," said Cal State Fullerton spokesman Chi-Chung Keung.

"The vaccine is currently being used on emergency use authorization (EUA) and we will reevaluate once the vaccine has been given full authorization," he said.

In the L.A. area the Cal State system's Northridge campus says it's considering a vaccination requirement for student athletes and students moving into the dorms. The Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, and San Bernardino campuses say they have not made decisions about vaccination requirements.

Here's what we know so far:

  • CSU Long Beach: Vaccines required for students living in the dorms
  • Cal Poly Pomona: Students not required to be vaccinated for return in the fall
  • CSU Northridge: No decision on vaccination requirement for the fall
  • CSU San Bernardino: No decision on vaccination requirement for the fall
  • CSU Los Angeles:No decision on vaccination requirement for the fall
  • CSU Dominguez Hills:No decision on vaccination requirement for the fall

The union that represents faculty objected to giving campuses autonomy on these decisions.
"The patchwork approach to vaccine access, safety protocols, and planning for the fall term leads to confusion and frustration for students, faculty, and staff," said California Faculty Association President Charles Toombs in an email.

He said he believes that Cal State Chancellor Joseph Castro should have implemented one policy for all the system's campuses. "This is no way to run a world class higher education system," Toombs said.

On most matters, the California State University has the same standards of teaching and learning throughout the 23-campus system. But on matters related to the vaccination of students for the re-opening of in-person learning in the fall, each campus will be exercising the autonomy bestowed by the university's central administration, a spokesman from the chancellor's office said.

Langsdorf Hall at Cal State Fullerton. The university is not requiring COVID-19 vaccines for students returning in fall. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

"While we're not able to require a vaccination for all students, we are encouraging all students and employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they become eligible and it's available to them," said Cal State Chancellor's office spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.
CSU's approach bears some resemblance to the patchwork approach to COVID-19 by California's 58 counties. As infection and hospitalization rates differed greatly in urban and rural counties, leaders in those counties took different approaches to enforcing policies meant to curb the spread of the virus.

"(The decision) is going to seem to be messy, but really you have to make decisions based on the area you live in. There's just no streamline decision for all 23 campuses," said Zahraa Khuraibet, president of Cal State Student Association.

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Khuraibet said that she trusts the university system's leadership and campus administration to shift their policies if regional situations worsen.

Administrators of the 10 campuses that make up the less populous University of California system said they are waiting for guidance from the office of University President Michael Drake. It appears all campuses will follow that guidance.

The return to campus in the fall will mean restoring an essential element of learning that's been lost during the pandemic: in-person connection. But many people recognize that in-person connection will look very different than before the pandemic, because COVID-19 remains a danger.

The union that represents 14,000 CSU clerical and other non-faculty employees is also pushing back on the university's decentralized approach to vaccination policies.

"We have the custodial staff that cleans (dorms) and we also have residential housing staff who work very closely with students," said Catherine Hutchinson, president of California State University Employees Union.

Campuses should be requiring some people returning to campus to be vaccinated, she said, although she didn't say which populations. Her union and the faculty union have not taken a position advocating for any specific population of students or employees to be vaccinated if they want to return to campus.

Members of her union who return to campus to work in the fall, she said, will be faced with not knowing how much danger they're exposing themselves to. And that's a clear sign that the pandemic is not over.

Corrected April 21, 2021 at 2:07 PM PDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a statement from the California Faculty Association. LAist regrets the error.