Bowdoin will require students, faculty and staff, pending medical exceptions, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester, President Clayton Rose announced in an email sent to students, faculty and staff on Friday morning.
Rose wrote that he was “very confident” that all students will be able to return to campus and take classes entirely in person.
In a Microsoft Teams interview with the Orient, Rose explained that the vaccination requirement would benefit public health and provide for “a safer, more secure environment” on campus.
“The decision was taken after a lot of consideration and thought, but it boils down to a fundamental issue of making sure we’re going to protect the health and safety of the campus community and the larger Brunswick community, which has been the goal all along,” Rose said. “And vaccination by everyone is the key to that.”
Proof of vaccination will be required by August 13 for students and August 24 for faculty and staff. In the email, Rose noted that, in addition to medical exemptions, employees could obtain exemptions for “legitimate religious reasons.”. The email also said the College would “work individually” with international students who have trouble obtaining a vaccine.
Rose explained in the interview with the Orient that the exemption policies reflect state and federal legal requirements. Federal protections mandate that religious exemptions be offered to employees, whereas a recent Maine law eliminated religious exemptions for students, including college students.
Rose wrote that Bowdoin plans to have faculty and staff return to working on campus by September 1. Building capacity limits will move from 50 percent to 75 percent on July 1, but facilities will still only be accessible to those enrolled in the testing program. The College aims to return all buildings to full capacity by September 1.
Rose added that it is “very likely” that athletics will resume on a normal schedule, as will “the other activities, performances, lectures, and events that make every day at Bowdoin special.”
Despite the vaccination requirements, Rose wrote in the email that “there may still be a need for some physical distancing indoors and perhaps the continued use of face coverings in certain situations,” but he added that “the goal is to return as close as we can to the Bowdoin we knew before the pandemic.”
Rose also established a working group “that will examine whether remote work would be valuable and feasible for the College” in the future. The committee, chaired by Associate Director for Talent Strategy Brian Robinson, will report its findings to Rose by October 15