Sac State will not require COVID-19 vaccine — student, faculty react

‘We’re at the mercy of the school to keep us safe’


Rahul Lal

Supporters of AB1460 who were told to leave the University Union’s Green & Gold Room and stand outside as Sacramento State’s Faculty Senate converse about the bill on March 5, 2020 prior to stay-at-home orders and school moving online. Sac State students, faculty and admin share their thoughts on if the COVID-19 vaccine should be required to return to campus in fall 2021.

Chrissy Martinez

The news that Sacramento State will not require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to campus in fall 2021 has resulted in contrasting opinions between students and faculty according to a statement by Ed Mills, vice president of Student Affairs to The State Hornet. 

“[Sac State] is really not in the position to be able to say ‘yes, it’s required’,” Mills said regarding if Sac State can mandate the vaccine to return to campus. 

For the COVID-19 vaccine to be required on campus it would first have to go through a policy process to see if it is both legal and allowable to be required in the first place, Mills said. 

It took approximately five years for the California State University to update its Executive Order 943 policy to come close to matching the University of California’s vaccination policy Mills said. 

“The reason that policy took a long time was just because it has to go through a substantial vetting of what is the legality of our ability to do that or not?” Mills said. 

Questions such as “should the vaccine be required at Sac State?” or “is it possible to require this vaccine?” have to be answered, before Sac State could ever consider a policy decision Mills said. 

On Monday, Joseph Castro, the CSU chancellor said he anticipates at least 50% of classes will be in-person.

“The academic side of the house is really working hard on [planning the in-person classroom format] right now to look at what they can do,” Mills said regarding how in-person classes may look in the fall. “All those conversations are happening right now.” 

Protective procedures such as wearing face masks, staying physically distant and washing hands will still be in place for fall 2021 Mills said. 

To encourage students to get the vaccine, Mills said he will make a video discussing more information about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The State Hornet spoke to multiple students and faculty at Sac State to hear their opinions on the announcement to not require the COVID-19 vaccine for fall 2021. 

‘We’re at the mercy of the school to keep us safe’

“[Mills statement] brings a lot of questions actually, that makes me question how serious the COVID-19 virus really is,” said Sac State student Ahsan Tariq, 32, adding that it is a good thing that Sac State does not require its students to take the COVID vaccine. 

Due to Tariq’s busy lifestyle, he said if there is an option to continue distance learning then that is what he will do. Tariq, who is a biological sciences major, said he does not plan on getting the vaccine because he is confident his body will take care of it. 

“Be mindful, always wear your gloves, keep your mask on and try to keep your distance, that is the best thing you can do,” Tariq said. “I think if everyone does that, then the virus really shouldn’t be an issue especially with going back to school.” 

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Art major Kelli Miller said she is on the fence about Sac State not requiring the vaccine. 

“While I will absolutely get inoculated, I can’t honestly expect others to do so just for immunocompromised people like me,” Miller said via Twitter direct message. 

Miller, 33,  is currently enrolled in a face-to-face class where there are precautions in place such as wearing masks, gloves and the professor requiring students to do a daily health self-screening before going to campus, class and the lab, she said. 

“I think if you have access to the vaccine and you’re taking an in-person class you should get the vaccine,” Miller said, adding that out of compassion for others, students should get vaccinated. 

If planning fall 2021 was up to Miller, she said it would be best to consult with Associated Students Inc., Sac State students, professors, and hold meetings with administration. Miller said she would also hold daily health screenings on campus and offer access to the vaccine for students and staff. 

Miller said one reason she will get the vaccine is to create herd immunity for those who have allergies to the vaccine and cannot take it for any other reason. 

Brandy Smith, 28, a psychology and social science major, said Sac State did a commendable job by making the last two semesters held mostly online to protect students, staff and faculty. The lack of a requirement to be vaccinated makes her nervous to return to in-person classes during a pandemic, she said via Twitter direct message. 

“I’m not comfortable risking my own life and the lives of my peers and professors just to stop distance learning before it’s actually safe to,” Smith said, adding that requiring vaccination for in-person classes is the right thing to do to keep everyone safe. 

Smith said she has taken the COVID-19 vaccine already and will be taking her second dose in a few weeks. 

“It’s not fair to have to risk myself and my loved ones just to pursue my education, but I also can’t stop in the middle of my degree so we’re at the mercy of the school to keep us safe,” Smith said. 

Sage Beamon, 21, communication studies major and double minor in marketing and sociology, said she expected Sac State’s stance but was still nonetheless disappointed. Beamon said she will take the vaccine because she believes in science and the people who claim that it is safe. 

“Absolutely, just like all other vaccines that are required by the CSU, this vaccine would help keep students safe,” Beamon said when asked if Sac State should require the vaccine to return to campus. 

Isaac Lara, microbiology major, said he will be receiving the vaccine because he trusts science. He also said he would like for everyone to get vaccinated and feels that lecture classes should stay online. 

Other students were more neutral on the subject of not requiring people to be vaccinated to return to campus.

“I’m personally not super upset by it,” said Amir Braziel, photography major and student ambassador. Braziel added he will be taking the vaccine when it is available for people in his tier. 

Sac State alumnus Nick Minning said he does not think students should be forced to get vaccinated but believes they should be encouraged to take it. Minning said he will also be receiving the vaccine when it is available for people his age. 

Story continues below the infographic.

COVID-19 vaccine myths and facts by Mercy Sosa.

 ‘I like my job, but I don’t want to risk my health or life for it’

Similar to students, Sac State faculty have raised concerns about Sac State not requiring vaccines for the community to return. 

 ASL and deaf studies associate professor Donald Grushkin said in an email response that he thinks vaccinations should be mandatory for returning to face-to-face classwork. 

“Most of our classrooms are way too small and students are packed in without the ability to maintain proper social distance, and we’re all breathing the same air for an hour or more,” Grushkin said. “I like my job, but I don’t want to risk my health or life for it.” 

On the other hand, education professor Katherine Raines said she does not feel students should have to be vaccinated in order to return to campus but does not think Sac State should be opening a fully live campus until we reach herd immunity. 

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccination of Sac State faculty uncertain due to shortage in county

“If we are not able to require vaccinations due to laws and policies that keep us from doing so, then we are not at a point that we should be asking people to rejoin the physical campus community,” education assistant professor Lisa Cantrell said in an email response. 

If there was a guarantee that every person on campus could be vaccinated for fall classes, education professor Francie Dillon said in an email response she would advise that Sac State make the vaccination part of the university requirements that are already in place for other standard vaccinations. 

“However, it’s questionable whether that could be a reality for fall 2021,” Dillon said. “Therefore, if students will be allowed to start classes without being vaccinated, then faculty, staff, and students should have the option to continue to work, teach and attend classes off-campus.” 

Mills said he appreciates the students, staff and faculty’s patience and wants to reassure the community that Sac State is looking at this through every angle and trying to safeguard folks while meeting the needs of the students and campus.

Additional reporting by Emma Hall, Erick Salgado and Robert Hansen.