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Many employees of the college received the vaccine last spring. Courtesy | Hillsdale Hospital

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.