As students return to campus for the start of the academic year, discussions about the new Covid policies have sparked a wide range of responses to the college’s precautions against the Delta Variant. Currently effective policies (as of 9/6/21) are as follows:
- Students must provide a negative Covid test before arriving on campus, unless they have contracted Covid up to 90 days before arrival.
- Resident students must complete daily wellness checks and weekly all-hall Covid testing.
- Students must wear masks indoors at all times unless eating or drinking. Social distancing and wearing masks within six feet of others outside are no longer required.
Notably, the college has not implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for students attending classes in-person. Despite this, Gordon College has strongly encouraged students to receive the vaccine, and has allowed vaccinated students to forego cautionary holds while waiting for a PCR test, should their hall test positive. On August 31st, the college hosted a vaccine informational webinar featuring Dr. Story and Dr. Keller to answer questions and concerns about the Covid vaccine. Following the webinar, Gordon College offered a free clinic for students to receive the Pfizer vaccine on September 2nd and 23rd.
This choice, made to respect the autonomy of any students who have objections to getting the vaccine, differs greatly from the policies of surrounding colleges. Every private university in the city of Boston, as well as the state of Massachusetts, is maintaining very strict Covid-19 policies, including mandated vaccination, masks indoors (and often, outdoors), and social distancing (further information on the policies of these colleges can be found here: https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/07/28/higher-ed-vaccine-policies).
The only exception to this is the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT), which, like Gordon College, is recommending but not mandating vaccination for students and faculty. Massachusetts community colleges are also not implementing a vaccine mandate; the reason provided by The Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges is that they must “meet the needs of all our students, who are often from the communities hit hardest by this pandemic and facing disproportionate access to the Covid-19 vaccine.” BFIT has not put out a statement on why they are not mandating vaccinations.
When asked to comment on Gordon’s Covid policies, Rick Sweeney, VP of Marketing and External Relations, spoke on behalf of the college’s Covid-19 Taskforce, saying:
“The College has been consistent since the spring in strongly encouraging all who are able to do so within our campus community to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but without a mandate. This has been the approach among [the] majority of our peer schools within the CCCU, as one frame of reference. With the variants that can infect those who are vaccinated, the vaccine is not the “cure all” solution to the pandemic. So Gordon has also emphasized the importance of a layered approach with multiple protocols (including the indoor masking mandate), while continuing to strongly recommend the vaccine as well as providing education to our community on the best way to protect yourself since COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon.
“We are very pleased that around 70% of our students came to Gordon fully vaccinated prior to the start of the semester (per the anonymous surveys we conducted over the summer), and over 60 students came to the vaccine clinic we held last week. We expect in the next month, that we could be somewhere between 77%-80% of our students fully vaccinated even without a mandate. The percentages are even higher among staff and among faculty.”
Since August 23rd, 15 of Gordon’s 1451 in-person undergraduate students have tested positive for COVID-19, creating a cumulative positive test percentage of 0.54% from 2797 tests, as can be found on Gordon College’s Covid-19 Dashboard page. Several floors have been put on cautionary hold due to these positive cases. Meanwhile, MIT conducted 25,964 tests in the previous 7 days (as of September 2nd), and found 18 positive cases, yielding a percentage of 0.07% positive tests for students on campus. Although it is possible for someone who has been vaccinated to contract Covid-19, the illness is far less severe, and immensely less likely to be contracted. With masks required indoors, daily wellness checks, and weekly Covid testing, however, Gordon College remains hopeful that these policies will lessen the effect of the pandemic, and is optimistic that by the spring semester, life on campus will return to normal.