Campus News

UB plans for more normal fall semester

 Students walking across a busy Founders Plaza.

A crowded Founders Plaza in 2016. Such activity should soon be the norm again, as UB gears up for the fall semester amid low rates of COVID-19 and high rates of vaccination among faculty, staff and students. Photo: Douglas Levere

By JAY REY

Published July 8, 2021

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“As we return to a much more normal campus experience, the health and safety of our university community continues to be our highest priority and we remain ready to adjust our plans accordingly. ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

Life at UB will be much closer to normal come fall with the announcement that students who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 will no longer need to wear masks or stay physically distanced while in the classroom.

The highly anticipated change was made this week by SUNY and takes effect at UB immediately. It’s a big step forward in returning to campus amid very low COVID-19 positivity rates.

“With the virus at an all-time low in Western New York and New York State, and with the high rates of vaccination in our campus community, UB will be fully in person in the fall,” says President Satish K. Tripathi.

“We are excited to welcome back to campus our students and our faculty and staff who have been working from home,” Tripathi says. “And, as we return to a much more normal campus experience, the health and safety of our university community continues to be our highest priority, and we remain ready to adjust our plans accordingly.”

The latest guidance from SUNY expands on earlier announcements that lifted masking and distancing requirements for vaccinated students and employees in most indoor and outdoor campus settings, including in classrooms and studios, research labs, offices, residence halls, recreation spaces and dining areas.

However, students and employees who are not vaccinated are responsible for wearing a mask in all indoor and outdoor locations on UB’s campuses, with the exception of in their personal residence hall rooms, personal workstations or while eating in university dining areas.

Physical distancing is not required for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals indoors or outdoors on UB campuses. However, unvaccinated persons are encouraged to observe physical distancing wherever practical.

Masks are required for all passengers on UB buses, in keeping with guidance from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Masks are also required within certain campus health care settings (e.g. Student Health Services, the UB Dental Clinic). Vaccinated students and employees may choose to wear a mask in all settings for their own comfort or personal medical reasons.

University officials will continue to urge students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated because it is the most effective way to protect one’s health and end the pandemic.

In accordance with SUNY, UB also updated its guidance and protocols on:

Mandatory vaccination for students: All UB students will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend classes in person in the fall, according to a mandate from the state. The requirement is pending final approval from SUNY and is also still subject to full approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For UB’s international student and faculty populations, the SUNY requirement recognizes vaccines that have been authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO). International students who have received a vaccine not authorized for emergency use either by the FDA or the WHO will need an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 19,000 UB students have already reported that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Students can submit a copy of their vaccination card to Health Services, preferably online.

“We’re very pleased with our students’ response to the vaccine requirement thus far and we anticipate the number of students who are vaccinated to continue to grow steadily leading up to the fall semester,” says Vice President for Student Life Brian F. Hamluk.

Students may qualify for an exemption due to medical reasons or religious beliefs, or if they are learning fully remote.

Capacity limits: COVID-19 restrictions remain in effect only for large indoor events with more than 5,000 people in attendance. At UB, this means that most activities and events on campus will resume in person, without masking or physical distancing for those students and employees who are vaccinated.

UB football games and other fall sports competitions will be held at full capacity in front of fans, in accordance with New York State guidelines. Masks will be required for unvaccinated individuals. The university will provide guidance about men’s and women’s basketball games at a later date.

Daily health screenings: In order to continue monitoring the health of the university community, all students and employees will be asked to continue to submit a daily health screening.

Quarantining: Unvaccinated students will need to provide proof they tested negative for COVID-19 within five days prior to arriving on campus for the semester. That must be followed up by another COVID-19 test on their day of arrival on campus.

In lieu of a negative test, unvaccinated students need to attest to UB that they quarantined at least 10 days prior to or upon arrival to campus.

Residence halls: In accordance with the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. All students and advisers living in residence halls and university-owned-and-operated apartments are required to be fully vaccinated upon move in to their assigned, on-campus residence. Accepted vaccines are those that have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA or the WHO. Students may request an exemption due to medical reasons or religious beliefs.

UB will also plan to designate space for quarantine and isolation uses. CDC guidance indicates that fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 do not have to quarantine unless they are symptomatic. Fully vaccinated individuals who test positive must isolate for the 10 days.

COVID testing: Mandatory weekly testing still will be required for students and employees who have not been vaccinated and have a regular presence on campus. Those who are fully vaccinated may opt out of the weekly testing by showing proof of completion of vaccination series.

Ventilation and air filtration: UB’s facilities staff and environment, health and safety experts will continuously assess the operating conditions of campus ventilation and air conditioning equipment, as they have done throughout the pandemic. In accordance with CDC recommendations, UB has upgraded HVAC filters where feasible, increased the amount of supplied outside air, extended the HVAC run times of occupied building settings, and balanced temperature, static air pressure and humidity conditions to provide the optimal indoor air quality balance.

 Cleaning protocols: The state’s mandatory cleaning and disinfecting protocols are no longer in effect, but UB will continue to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in common areas around campus at least once a day. Other surfaces will continue to be cleaned and disinfected regularly based on the amount of foot traffic.

Wastewater testing: Building on a pilot project the university launched last spring, UB will continue surveillance testing of campus wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

UB will continue to keep the university community informed of all updates and new guidance via its COVID-19 planning and response website.

READER COMMENTS

You have stated: "Mandatory vaccination for students: All UB students will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend classes in person in the fall, according to a mandate from the state. The requirement is pending final approval from SUNY and is also still subject to full approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."

Since it is pending for final approval, does this mean that the vaccine is enforced and people who have received the vaccine can still report to school?

Now this begs my next question: If you can't get the vaccine due to a religious reason, will you still allow them onto campus? If not, are there different ways for students to go to class?

Harrison Mangat

Since I have a big family, one being a newborn, I do not want to risk exposure to him, as it could be life-threatening at his age. That being said, I strongly prefer to keep my remote classes for fall 2021 as remote. Also, I work full time and graduate after the fall 2021 semester and do not want to risk further delay in achieving this goal due to not being able to attend classes.

Samuel Hill

I enjoyed reading this article because it has great news for us. It is great to return to our normal life. I want to thank UB and the staff for their concern and help, and I would like to say that we, as students, are happy to help if needed.

Anas Althuwaini

I believe the vaccine mandate for in-person classes is wrong, and quite concerning. There is no explanation given for why students must get it, but not employees, despite this being the opposite of what you'd expect, given the risk factor of age.

I have a right to an education and I will be deeply upset if I can't go to school in the fall.

I am pro-science, but I've heard scary side effect stories about this vaccine in particular, and would like to avoid risks, since I am otherwise a super healthy individual.

I think UB should rescind this mandate and stick to suggesting it. It's a disrespect to bodily autonomy to insist on a bodily penetration, with gene-therapy, to attend school, which I have a right to do. My body, my choice. I have the best knowledge about what's best for me, not some authority who has never met me. Furthermore, this goes against both my religious and philosophical beliefs, so please don't remove the option for religious exemption.

Joshua Maroney

I believe the CDC has removed the mask-wearing mandate too early and I will continue to wear a mask indoors. My question is, am I allowed to require my students to do so in the classes that I teach? I need to be extra cautious, as I am the caregiver for my 81-year-old mother, who is in cancer treatment and immunocompromised, and I cannot risk bringing anything home to her.

Naomi Harris  

As a paramedic, I have spent this last year treating patients from this pandemic. After a year fighting disease and misinformation, I'm happy to see the light on the other side. I'm also very happy to see that UB is adjusting its guidelines to follow the best science-based recommendations. I look forward to being a student at UB this fall.

In regards to some of the previous comments: I strongly suggest anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to address their concerns with a competent medical professional. Among many false or misleading narratives, the vaccines aren't gene-therapy. Also, UB, like any other place of business, has the right to set safety standards that govern how affairs will be conducted on their premises. If these rules offend you or go against your personal beliefs, you have the right to take your business and entitlement elsewhere.

Nick Smith