Students, faculty, and staff are not required by Hillsdale College to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to study, teach, or work on campus this fall.
“In the spirit of individual liberty, people need to make informed decisions for themselves,” Provost Chris VanOrman said.
The college respects philosophical or religious reasons some people cite against receiving the vaccine, VanOrman said in an email to faculty and staff on Aug. 13. Professors may request that students wear masks in class and that the administration holds “jurisdiction” on masking in public spaces, he wrote.
The college has not announced plans for quarantining or testing, but it will continue providing ionization technology, classroom disinfection, and hand-sanitizing stations.
For those interested in receiving the shot, vaccines remain available at the Hillsdale Hospital to anyone over the age of 12.
“We will continue to work with the hospital to provide the vaccine to anyone who desires it,” VanOrman said.
Rachel Lott, director of marketing and development for Hillsdale Hospital, said hospitalizations at the facility are increasing, and so are cases across the county.
There have been 4,281 cases in Hillsdale County to date and 94 deaths since March 2020.
“Hillsdale Hospital continues to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases in our community and adjust our protocols as needed,” Lott said. “We also continue to encourage individuals to get vaccinated and hold weekly vaccine clinics right here on our hospital campus.”
According to data on Michigan.gov, the rate in the county of those over 16 who have received their first dose of the vaccine is 40.75%. The statewide rate is 65.2%.
“In the past 30 days, we have seen more new cases in the county and we have had more patients hospitalized due to COVID-19, which is to be expected when there are more cases overall,” Lott said.
The college will monitor local health, but classes will remain in-person.
“Believing that in-person instruction is the best way to educate our students, we also remain committed to protecting the health of our students, faculty, and staff,” VanOrman said.
More than 750 colleges and universities across the country are requiring students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
At least 12 of these schools are in Michigan, including the University of Michigan’s three campuses and Michigan State University as well as Albion College, Chamberlain University at Troy, Grand Valley State University, Kalamazoo College, Lawrence Technological University, Oakland University, University of Detroit Mercy, and Wayne State University.
On June 17, VanOrman published an op-ed in The Detroit News opposing mandatory vaccination for students. The article ran alongside a piece by Albion College President Mathew Johnson, who argued mandating the shot was “the safest option.”
“We recognize the need to keep our minds and our options open, but we are also committed to keeping our campus and our classrooms open,” Johnson wrote. “This policy is the best way to achieve that goal and to do so in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of every member of our campus and the broader community.”
Albion was the first college in Michigan to require vaccination for its students and faculty. Johnson said this call was made “deliberately and thoughtfully.”
VanOrman said Hillsdale will not ask who has been vaccinated as that is “private health information.”
“Higher learning institutions across the country are adding a new obstacle to the education they claim is necessary: the mandatory vaccination of students,” VanOrman wrote. “Hillsdale College will not take part.”
VanOrman said the Hillsdale administration consulted experts and provided extensive cleaning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But when it comes to vaccines, the school weighs on the side of individual liberty.
“Rather than issue one-size-fits-all policies, Hillsdale College will continue to operate as it always has, according to the principle of self-government,” he said.
VanOrman noted in his Aug. 13 email the differing opinions surrounding the virus and related policies, but said college faculty and staff need to “find a way to work together with respect and civility.”
“We can do that successfully if we focus on our common purpose,” he said.