Faculty Senate calls for earlier vaccine access for university personnel

Mitchell Roland, Editor-in-Chief

Members of CWU’s Faculty Senate sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this week asking for higher education personnel to be included in the state’s 1B tier 2 category of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The letter, dated Feb. 22, is signed by Senate Chair Dr. Elvin Delgado, Chair-Elect Greg Lyman and six members of the Senate’s Executive Committee.

Under Washington state’s vaccine distribution chart, members of the 1B tier 2 group will start receiving the vaccine in the spring and summer. Groups of people currently in 1B tier 2 include “High-risk critical workers 50 years or older who work in certain congregate settings” including childcare, food processing, grocery stores and K-12 education.

According to the letter, faculty inclusion would be an important step for increased in-person instruction at CWU.

“Allowing higher education personnel to join the K-12 personnel in the 1B tier 2 category would help to ensure the safety of this critical workforce and the communities in which they live while providing vulnerable student groups with the in-person education that they need and want,” the letter said.

The letter said college-age students “were already a vulnerable group in regard to mental health” before the pandemic, and the past year has only exacerbated the issue. With additional in-person classes, students will be able to get “the class environment they expect from a university setting” while also allowing increased social interaction.

“Enabling higher education personnel to safely re-engage with this at-risk population will help students to stay in school and get the education they and the State of Washington need them to have,” the letter said.

According to the letter, college-age students have higher COVID-19 positivity rates than students in K-12 schools.

“The college-age demographic makes up 39 percent of [COVID-19] cases in Washington state,” the letter said. “CWU has many support and academic programs in areas that necessitate face-to-face engagement, from academic and mental health counseling to applied engineering and aviation as well as music, art, fashion and theatre.”

In a Feb. 24 press release, President James L. Gaudino said he supported the faculty’s efforts to move into 1B tier 2.

“CWU believes higher education personnel should join the K-12 workforce on the 1B, tier 2 vaccination schedule because the services they provide are critical to the students and communities we serve,” Gaudino said. “Ensuring their safety is vital so they can continue to provide crucial educational resources to the students who need it most.”

According to the letter, CWU saw a 10% reduction in student retention from the fall quarter to winter quarter among non-white students and a 3% reduction in retention for first-generation and Pell-eligible students.

“These students need the in-person engagement personnel only can provide safely if they have been inoculated,” the letter said.

It is currently unclear if Inslee has responded to the Faculty Senate’s letter.