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Brown to require COVID-19 vaccine for in-person instruction in fall

U. among first private colleges to announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, will allow religious, health exemptions


The University will require that all undergraduate, graduate and medical students on-campus or participating in in-person instruction receive the COVID-19 vaccine for the fall 2021 semester, barring medical or religious exemptions, President Christina Paxson P’19 announced in an email to the Brown community April 6.

Assuming that there is a “high level of immunity among students and employees,” Paxson wrote, campus life in fall 2021 will look much like it did in the fall 2019 semester. All students will be invited to campus for in-person instruction with standard class sizes and normal room occupancy in residence halls. Expanded dining options, extracurriculars and athletics will all likely resume in person, Paxson wrote.

Brown is among the first of private universities in the country to announce a vaccine mandate for fall 2021. Cornell and Rutgers University have announced similar policies.

“Although aspects of our lives will continue to be influenced by public health considerations for quite some time, I am looking toward next year with a sense of optimism,” Paxson wrote.

Students who are not vaccinated and do not receive exemptions will have to petition to study remotely for the fall semester or declare leaves of absence. Remote permission will be granted for students who have “exceptional circumstances that prevent their return to Providence and who have a compelling academic reason to be enrolled to study remotely,” Paxson wrote.

The University has not yet decided whether vaccines will be required for faculty and staff in the fall, Paxson wrote. The University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Working Group will give Paxson a recommendation on vaccine policy for employees by June 1.

Though the University will require students to get vaccinated, it does not plan to take a direct role in administering vaccines in the near future. “We hope there will be opportunities in the future for the University to host on-campus clinics to administer the vaccine to eligible populations, but Brown does not have authorization from the state or access to vaccine to do so at this time — and we don't have an answer on whether the state will enable us to do so moving forward,” University spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.

Instead, “students and their families should consult their local resources for availability and procedures for getting vaccinated,” Paxson wrote.

Several aspects of the fall semester remain uncertain, such as under what circumstances mask wearing will be required and the frequency of asymptomatic testing of students for COVID-19, Paxson wrote. The University will make decisions about these policies over the summer.

“Even as we plan for a more traditional campus experience, flexibility remains essential,” Paxson wrote. “Our plans will continue to be shaped by public health guidance and the prevailing science about the effectiveness of vaccinations.”

Some pandemic changes to University instruction will remain in the fall. Paxson wrote that the University has learned that many courses can be improved by the “incorporation of online technology,” so Provost Richard Locke P’18 has consulted with faculty about which courses are best suited for continued online or hybrid instruction.

Paxson wrote that the University hopes that vaccinations and low levels of COVID-19 will allow faculty to return to in-person work by mid-August, but will make an official decision on the timeline by June 1.

In the meantime, Paxson cautioned the student body to remain vigilant as rates of COVID-19 remain high throughout the country and the world. The current COVID-19 health and safety policies will remain in effect for the summer semester, Paxson wrote.

University Health Services will communicate specifics about how students will show proof of vaccination and how to request exemptions over the summer.


Ben Glickman

Ben Glickman is the 132nd editor-in-chief and president of The Brown Daily Herald. He previously served as a metro editor and oversaw the College Hill and Fox Point beat, in addition to writing and editing about city politics, COVID-19 and the 2020 election. He is the co-creator of the Bruno Brief, The Herald's first news podcast. In his free time, he is passionate about birds (also tweeting) and eating way too spicy food. 

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