MEDFORD, Ore. — With less than a week to go before fall classes begin at Rogue Community College, the school's policy will not require students or faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to appear on campus.
"RCC joins all community colleges in Oregon in encouraging employees and students to receive the vaccine for COVID-19 to protect themselves, the RCC learning environment, and our communities at large," the community college's COVID-19 policy reads. "Likewise, we join the majority of Oregon community colleges in not mandating vaccines for employees or students."
As of now, RCC is indeed following the trend among Oregon's higher education institutions. While Oregon's public universities adopted vaccination requirements early — Southern Oregon University instituted one in May — community colleges have largely avoided making similar mandates, Lane Community College representing a significant exception.
RCC says that it will prioritize sharing resources and information about the vaccine's availability and efficacy, and vaccination clinics will be available at the Table Rock and Redwood campuses on Wednesday during the student Welcome Days. Masks are required indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces due to the statewide mandate, and disposable masks will be available at RCC as needed.
Under Governor Kate Brown's subsequent vaccine mandates, COVID-19 vaccinations are required for healthcare workers and K-12 educators. Broadly speaking, this does not apply to community college faculty, except where they overlap with certain healthcare programs or if they also work in a K-12 setting. More information about what RCC programs would be covered by the mandate can be found on their website under the vaccination policy.
At present, even Portland Community College has resisted implementing a vaccination requirement for students or staff, citing the different landscape of vaccine access and hesitancy in historically disadvantaged communities, and indicating that mandates could be ineffective.
"Based on surveys, vaccination rates for PCC employee and student communities far exceed 70%, the vaccination target rate set by Governor Kate Brown," PCC said in a June statement. "The vaccination rate will never be 100%. Oregon law allows individuals to request exemption from vaccination requirements for personal, religious, or medical reasons. As such, some members of the college’s community would not be vaccinated, even if it were required."
PCC's Board of Directors has since considered implementing a vaccine mandate, but has yet to follow through.