LEONARDTOWN, Md. – As the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) prepares for its summer semester, Southern Maryland politicians have been pushing back against a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
Last week, the St. Mary’s County Commissioners (BOCC) came to a unanimous agreement to send a letter opposing the college’s vaccination policy.
“We take great pride in having a community college for our local high school students and citizens to attend and have gladly supported the college to better ensure each student’s success,” the commissioners said in the letter. “However, we are concerned this vaccine protocol closes CSM’s doors to too many in the country.”
CSM’s vaccination policy requires all students enrolled in on-campus instruction or using in-person services to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning with the Spring 2022 semester.
“Our position has always been, and will remain, that we will provide a safe learning and work environment for our students, faculty, and staff based on the scientific information and recommendations we are given by our local health officers and the CDC,” said Angela Small, CSM’s public information officer. “We understand the complexities surrounding how we navigate through COVID-19, and our decisions consider both scientific evidence and multiple individual perspectives. We appreciate the commissioners’ efforts to keep the public informed.”
With 76% of St. Mary’s County residents 12 and older reported to be fully vaccinated, commissioners argue that nearly one of four potential students will not be able to attend CSM. For this and several other reasons, the board and Delegate Matt Morgan[R-St. Mary’s] have outwardly opposed this policy.
“In my opinion, CSM’s current admission policy regarding a required COVID vaccination is discriminatory,” Delegate Matt Morgan said. “CSM is a viable college option for many of our citizens in our community trying to further their education, and their current admission policy is deterring many students.”
The St. Mary’s BOCC even used the words of CSM’s mission statement against them. If CSM’s mission is to “provide each individual with the opportunity, resources, and access needed to be successful”, then CSM should review this policy, the BOCC said in the letter.
In response to this statement, the College of Southern Maryland has broken down the policy even further. They clarify saying vaccination is not an admission requirement, but it is a requirement for those who want to take in-person classes.
“At present, CSM requires vaccinations for most students and employees who are taking classes onsite, and masking is optional, though highly recommended,” Small said. “Being vaccinated is not an admission requirement. We have a substantial number of students who prefer to take classes remotely, and those students have never been required to have proof of vaccination.”
However, CSM’s Board of Trustees still plans to review their current policies, and CSM informed the commissioners of all three counties (St. Mary’s, Calvert, and Charles) of this revision period on May 23, according to Small.
CSM’s fall semester begins Aug. 31, 2022, and CSM’s leadership team will announce any changes before the end of July, though their target is earlier, Small said.
Since the pandemic caused much confusion around changing rules, the college has not changed its protocols during a semester. This is why they typically announce changes at least four weeks before the beginning of the next semester to allow for the smoothest migration to the new status as possible, Smalls said.
“CSM has been in close and constant contact with the Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s County Boards of County Commissioners, and the Southern Maryland Delegation, throughout the pandemic to keep all updated about our actions and policies surrounding our COVID-19 response since the pandemic began in 2020,” Small said. “As the information has changed, so have our policies: From working/learning fully remotely, to coming back to campus with limited capacity – and then full capacity; to requiring vaccinations and moving from mandatory masking to removing the mask requirement altogether.”
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