University administrators talk return to campus plans and vaccinations

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Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

University leadership shared that Northwestern plans on in-person instruction in the fall.

Yunkyo Kim, Campus Editor

University administrators announced plans for in-person instruction in Fall Quarter and are still considering a vaccination mandate. Currently, less than half of faculty and staff are vaccinated, they reported at a Thursday event. 

University President Morton Schapiro, Provost Kathleen Hagerty, Vice President for Operations Luke Figora and senior administrators discussed campus return strategy and vaccinations in Thursday’s “Conversation with the President and University Leadership” event. The over 400 community members in attendance could ask panelists questions via the chat function on Zoom. 

University leadership shared that Northwestern plans on in-person instruction in the fall. Summer term classes, at this time, are set to be held remotely with some socially distanced in-person research and other activities. 

“Everything is subject to the constraints of public health and safety so that’s part of it that we cannot control, but we are planning for it,” Hagerty said. “Now, whether or not we’re able to do as we plan is we have to see how the world evolves.”

The University will also monitor updates to international policy for access to visas, she added. 

NU is still debating whether to mandate vaccinations for students returning to campus in the fall. Figora said leadership continues to monitor Illinois vaccine rollout strategy, but that there are no decisions at this time. 

“We feel hesitant to make that decision until we know a little bit more,” Figora said. “We will keep (the NU community) updated as those decisions are made.”

In the past week, Brown University and Northeastern University announced that students were required to be vaccinated to return to campus, joining Cornell University, Rutgers University and other educational institutions that now require vaccinations. 

As it currently stands, less than half of NU faculty and staff are vaccinated, Figora reported. On top of this, because the University does not have direct access to Illinois vaccine stock, it receives a “pretty low” supply of doses per week that range from 200 to 400. 

“We would love to make the commitment to vaccinate all students by the end of the term,” he added. “We’ve got the infrastructure in place, the staffing in place (and) the space to do that. We just don’t have the vaccine supply right now.”

Furthermore, the University only has access to the Moderna vaccine, not Pfizer, and likely expects to receive delivery of Johnson & Johnson doses soon, he added. 

Schapiro said that faculty and staff do really care for NU students. In his 42 years of teaching undergraduates, he has never witnessed such a high level of stress toward courses and post-graduation job security, he said. 

The good news, Schapiro said, is that return to normal is possible.  

“I am always optimistic and I always think going back more than a year ago that this is going to pass,” Schapiro said. “We all wait for the new normal, but we seem to be a little bit elusive, but I think we are getting closer and closer.”

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