Apr 1st, 2021, 09:41 AM

AUP Administrators say they will strongly “recommend” COVID-19 vaccine

By Savannah Cooper
Vaccine center near Place de la Clichy. Image Credit: Savannah Cooper.
Administrators say flexibility is the solution for its global student population in Fall 21, as the vaccination rolls out unequally across the world.

With less than a month left of the Spring 2021 semester, members of the AUP community are starting to question what the Fall 2021 semester will look like on campus. As daylight grows longer and the temperature steadily rises, we’re reminded that the changes of seasons are one of the few certainties these days.

Vice President for Security and Operations, and Dean of Student Services, Marc Montheard, is no longer making claims of certainty, after recently crossing the one-year mark of the world’s acknowledgment of COVID-19, rather he’s relying on what’s worked in the past.

“In all fairness, I wouldn’t take the risk of stating anything regarding to the position of the University in September because that would be foolish,” Montheard said. “All I can say is that what we’ve tried to do since the very beginning of the crisis is two things — be as pragmatic and flexible as possible and stick to the French health authorities, and we will continue to do that.”

AUP pragmatically adhering to the advice from French health authorities has resulted in several initiatives including but not limited to: housing only offering single or double bed accommodations, modifying building hours, increasing the daily cleaning of heavily touched surfaces, and switching popular activities like sports, student leadership, and cultural programs from in-person to remote programs.

Aside from those adjustments, Dean of Student Development Kevin Fore’s main focus shifted from getting back to “normal” in-person classes to ensuring that AUP continues to offer its students the fullest college experience possible regardless.

“We were really trying to maintain services for students whether they were here on campus or studying remotely or in a hybrid situation,” Fore said. “Making sure that we had an offering for students that allowed them to experience college in a way that was more than just tuning into a class and tuning out.”

Colleges and universities, particularly AUP with its global student body, are in a unique predicament because, unlike lower-level schools, it’s unconstitutional in France to force an adult to take a vaccination.

Health Office Coordinator Anne-Laure Jardy doesn’t know what’s going on behind the scenes of French health authorities, so she’s looking to sustain precedent.

“If a student came here and wasn’t vaccinated, we will require at least a negative (COVID-19) test,” Jardry said. “That’s what we do right now. We ask for a negative test for everyone to come on campus. That’s what we will keep doing because the (French) government can’t force anyone to be vaccinated.”

The inequality of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination makes the problem even more complicated for AUP. In France, where 8.8 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered, alongside other EU countries, while in the United States of America over 100 million doses have been administered with its President Joe Biden now promising 200 million doses within his first 100 days in office. In comparison, countries like Guatemala and Jamaica haven’t vaccinated 1% of their population.

Despite such a current deficit, Fore finds comfort in the campus’s small size and ability to adapt quickly.

“We hope by end of August in many parts of the world, the vaccination will have been rolled out more widely, that the situation will have been under control and that it won’t be too difficult for students to get to France,” Fore said. “At this point, that’s what we can be optimistic about, but we are also ready for surprises because we have been surprised before.”

Montheard knows that making the vaccine mandatory for AUP students isn’t realistic, yet advises those who can to do so.

“Saying you must be vaccinated against measles if you want to come to AUP is easy,” Montheard said. “Vaccination against measles is easy. You go to your doctor, there’s no shortage, it’s available. Right now the problem with the vaccine against COVID is that it’s one of the most unequal things in the world and therefore requesting, forcing people to be vaccinated is out of the question as we speak. Basically, we will strongly recommend that everybody who can be vaccinated be vaccinated.”

Historically, AUP students have been open to sharing vaccination records and Fore doesn’t see that changing with upcoming semesters regarding COVID-19.

“What we see with vaccinations is that for the vast majority of our population of students submit their vaccinations without asking a question about it,” Fore said. “They just file it. They assume that they will. They want to. And we have a very small group of students who will ask for an exemption and that can be sometimes even for medical reasons.”

This upcoming summer will be quite telling of our chances to effectively minimize this crisis and there’s a lot at risk, but Montheard is feeling confident regarding the Fall semester.

“I truly believe that we’re turning the page,” Montheard said. “It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be so much better, and I’m very optimistic in terms of our ability to function properly, if not normally, as of Fall. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m optimistic.”