Faculty Petition Supports Bivalent COVID-19 Booster Mandate


The administration cited CDC guidelines that recommended the booster shot to all those able to take it. (Courtesy of Pia Fischetti/The Fordham Ram)

On Sept. 26, 2022, Fordham’s administration announced that the university would be requiring all students, faculty and staff to get the bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine by Nov. 1.

The administration cited CDC guidelines that recommended the booster shot to all those able to take it.

This announcement caused controversy on campus.

A group of faculty members signed a petition against the mandate. The petition claimed that “a realm of personal medical discretion and privacy must be preserved,” and that the vaccine mandate did the opposite. The petition also referenced other universities in New York City, as well as the 27 other Jesuit universities in the United States, none of which are requiring the vaccine. Their petition currently has 115 signatures.

However, another group of faculty members created their own petition in support of the mandate.

Mark Naison, Ph.D., is one of five faculty members that has circulated a petition in support of Fordham’s vaccine mandate. The petition currently has 209 signatures. Naison is a professor of African American and History and the founder of the Bronx African American History Project. Naison said he is taking a Bronx-centric perspective in his approach to the vaccine mandate.

Naison said that when dealing with social policies of this nature there will always be a balance between individual choice and community needs, and that in this very specific instance he views the needs of the community as being stronger than those of individual choice.

“To me, a residential campus is a super-spreader place similar to a cruise ship,” Naison said. “Put this in front of the single most vulnerable community to COVID-19 in the entire United States when we look at infection rates and death rates, and I would rather err on the side of protecting this community rather than giving people individual choice.”

For reference, the New York City government reports that the Fordham/Belmont community transmission rate sits at about 6%, compared to a national average of 8.4% according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker. The rate of full vaccination in the Bronx is about 78%, compared to a national rate of 68.4%.

Naison stated that his perspective stems directly from his contact with commuter students and with residents of the Bronx. Given the university’s high level of interaction with the Bronx, especially considering the amount of commuter students and campus workers that live in the borough, Naison said he thinks that it is crucial that we consider the entire community in our discussions about vaccines.

For this reason, Naison is also critical of the faculty’s petition against the mandate.

Naison said that as far as he knows when the faculty developed this petition “the whole question of the Bronx’s vulnerability was not even brought up.” He added, “The Bronx was not in the room. So now I am putting it back in the room,” said Naison.

Naison said Bronx community members he has spoken to also support the mandate.

“I’ve asked all the commuter students in my class if they support the mandate. To a person, they do. I’ve asked all the Bronx community leaders if they support the mandate. To a person, they do. Somebody has to speak to them because their voice is often unheard on this campus,” said Naison.