All students attending Clark in-person courses or activities for winter quarter will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or obtain an approved religious or medical exemption.
The mandate follows a recommendation from Clark’s Recovery Management and Return to Campus Teams, composed of Clark faculty, staff, and primary stakeholders. The teams also considered feedback from ASCC student representation and parents.
Faculty and staff in education in Washington were mandated by the state to provide vaccination attestation, or have an accepted exemption on file by Oct. 18. For students, the decision was left up to school leadership.
“Our intent was that we would go back to fully face-to-face programs but we will have to see,” Clark’s President Dr. Karin Edwards said.
Washington State University required vaccination or exemption documentation for students system-wide attending in person courses by Sept. 10. When Oregon left the decision up to college policy makers, Portland Community College conversely opted not to mandate the vaccine with concerns that it would unfairly affect students of color.
With Clark’s safety teams, President Dr. Karin Edwards and Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Michele Cruse, tracked internal data, such as Clark campus cases and vaccine attestation, along with county data provided by Clark County Public Health, to stay updated on local coronavirus statistics. Vaccination data for Clark County revealed no significant disparity in access to vaccines, supporting the move towards a vaccine requirement.
Prioritizing community health, Cruse emphasized that increasing student comfortability to return to campus also played a role in the decision.
“There needs to be opportunity to support all types of learners, and this online learning is not the best for everyone,” Cruse said. “That was definitely one of the bigger factors.”
Cruse also noted that out of Clark’s 8,000 enrolled students, only around 2,000 returned to in-person classes for fall quarter.
Robert Weston, chairman of Clark’s mathematics division, believes that the winter mandate marks a step in the right direction. Although he was unable to teach any in-person courses fall quarter due to low enrollment, Weston is optimistic for the mandate.
“I’m really hopeful that we’ll see a lot of people feel more confident and comfortable coming back to class face-to-face in the winter,” said Weston.
Chris Ramirez, a second year student at Clark, says he thinks the mandate is one step closer to leaving behind other current COVID-19 related restrictions, such as wearing masks.
“I’ve had the vaccine for a while now so for me, you know, it’s a comfort to know that they’re doing something and that everyone [gets] vaccinated,” Ramirez said.
Running Start student Brooke Ottem isn’t yet vaccinated, and is currently debating whether to receive the vaccine or return to only online courses come fall. She emphasized respecting people’s personal decisions.
“Be mindful of everyone’s reasons for not getting it or getting it,” said Ottem. “It’s a personal reason for what they want or don’t want to put in their body.”
Weston notes that as the virus is ongoing, student feedback is appreciated.
“If a student is ever concerned about their classroom, cleaning supplies, physical distancing, or when and how classes move from face-to-face to online, please speak to your ASCC representative,” said Weston.
ASCC’s current student representation is Vice President Claudia Carrion. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the upcoming requirement can be found on Clark’s student vaccination page.