An aerial view of Cabrillo College's Aptos campus.
An aerial view of Cabrillo’s Aptos campus.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Higher Ed

Cabrillo in-person students, staff facing midnight Wednesday deadline to submit vax proof

Students who haven’t uploaded proof of vaccination or proof of an exemption by midnight will be at risk of being dropped from their in-person classes. Faculty will be subject to disciplinary action at Cabrillo, which began its fall semester with half of its classes offered in person.

Students, staff and faculty who need to be on campus for Cabrillo College’s hybrid fall semester are facing a Wednesday night deadline on the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate that could cost them access to school facilities.

After midnight, students who haven’t uploaded proof of vaccination or proof of an exemption will be at risk of being dropped from their in-person classes for not abiding by the policy, and faculty will be subject to disciplinary action.

About 3,500 Cabrillo students are registered for in-person classes this semester, school officials said, and 65% had uploaded either proof of vaccination or proof of an exemption as of Tuesday morning.

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Cabrillo College President Matthew Wetstein said Wednesday that the remaining 35% of students uploading their proof of vaccination or exemption could overload the student health services system and result in a lag in the verification process. Students unable to make the 11:59 p.m. deadline will not be automatically dropped from their courses, but that doesn’t mean they should procrastinate.

“I’d like to think that as an institution we’d want to bend over backwards to have access to higher education for our students,” Wetstein told Lookout. “So I’d be shocked if we end up dropping students who got their stuff in a day late. That’s harsh to me. I’d rather be an institution that recognizes the people have a lot going on in their lives.”

Although campus administrators won’t be tasked with stopping unvaccinated individuals from coming onto campus, Cabrillo Public Information Officer Kristin Fabos said she expects those who do will use the honor system and help keep their community safe.

“The start of the semester has gone really well and students have been great in adhering to the masking indoors policies that we have,” Fabos said. “So I think it’s important to keep the Cabrillo community safe and to keep us being able to continue to offer in-person classes.”

Cabrillo began its semester Aug. 23, offering 50% of its classes in person and the other half online. Those who are enrolled in only online classes will not be required to upload proof of vaccination or proof of an exemption. Exemptions approved by the college in its COVID-19 immunization protocol include for religious and medical reasons and for certain new employees.

Those who are partially vaccinated can upload proof of their first dose and proof of a second dose appointment.

Cabrillo biology instructor Alicia Steinhardt is teaching remotely for the fall semester but said she is in support of the vaccination policy.

“My take on it is that it’s to protect the people who can’t get vaccinated, the children,” she said, referencing the fact that those under 12 are not yet eligible for a shot. “I think that we need to make sure that anybody who comes to Cabrillo College isn’t going to be unnecessarily exposed to a virus that could potentially harm their children. And I trust my administration and I trust my college leadership to make decisions on behalf of the community.”

Wetstein said he was relatively surprised by how little pushback he got after Cabrillo announced its COVID-19 vaccination policy in July. He said most of the concerns came from the fact that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines had been authorized for emergency use and didn’t have full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But after FDA gave the Pfizer shot its full approval, the concerns started to dwindle.

“It’s a pretty well-established law in this country that vaccination requirements imposed by schools or colleges and universities in the past have long been upheld as constitutional under the Supreme Court’s rulings,” Wetstein said. “This is no different.”

COVID-19 vaccination mandates are common for California colleges and universities offering in-person instruction this fall. The University of California system announced July 15 it would require all students to upload proof of vaccination. Less than two weeks later, the California State University system implemented a similar mandate.

For UC Santa Cruz, the deadline for students to upload proof of vaccination was last Thursday. Those who do not show proof of vaccination will not be allowed on campus, are not eligible for in-person classes and will not be allowed to move into on-campus dorms or apartments.

Cabrillo administrators finalized their COVID-19 immunization protocol — including the vaccine mandate — on July 29 and have since taken steps to make the vaccine more accessible to students. Students are able to make vaccination and testing appointments through Cabrillo Student Health Services.

“It just keeps the Cabrillo community safe,” Fabos said. “In terms of the community college world, Cabrillo was one of the earlier ones to implement the vaccination policy like we have. But many, and I would dare say most of the community colleges statewide, have implemented a similar system — we were just one of the first out of the gate.”