Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., President, Endicott College
Faculty on college campuses have made many sacrifices since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. One year ago, our faculty members at Endicott College made a swift adjustment to teach our students online after they were sent home. Beyond that, they worked with graduating seniors to satisfy degree completion, organized virtual internship opportunities for undergraduates and counseled students in their academic disciplines and beyond. The Spring 2020 semester concluded without a traditional graduation ceremony. When we recruited a larger-than-usual first-year class, additional academic advising was required; our faculty and staff met the challenge.
As the Fall 2020 semester began, Endicott made a commitment to teach in-person classes while conducting weekly COVID testing for all faculty, staff, and students.
Classrooms were transformed with limited seating capacity, Plexiglas barriers to protect faculty and tech upgrades to allow for integrated hybrid classes. Our initiative, Reimagine Endicott, was extremely successful with students living on campus, eating in dining halls, taking classes, and scrimmaging on athletic fields. Spring retention was high as we conducted reentry testing and launched a new semester under the new normal.
Our community followed the now familiar state-mandated protocols: social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, and limits on large gatherings.
When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced the COVID vaccine rollout, there was a glaring error. Educators teaching K-12 classes were eligible for an early phase vaccine, yet college faculty were relegated to the public distribution group, unless they exceed the minimum age requirement of 75+ or were 65+ with underlying conditions.
College faculty teaching face-to-face in the classroom, who did not meet those age specific criteria, were NOT eligible. A high school teacher in a classroom with 17-year-olds could get vaccinated, but a college faculty professor teaching 18-year-olds cannot. In other New England states, college faculty are included among eligible educators and are, therefore, part of the earlier phase.
Endicott College faculty have gone above and beyond what has been expected during these past 12 months, along with their colleagues at other schools. Much like health care workers, college faculty are unsung heroes who have literally put their lives on the line to educate our students. They should not be considered second class educators in the fight against COVID. They need our support, our thanks and they need to be vaccinated. I urge the Commonwealth to do the right thing and include college faculty in the educator distribution group for vaccinations. The least we can do is offer them a shot in the arm that may save lives.
Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., is President of Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. He is former head of the Committee on Student Aid as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Dr. DiSalvo holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Administration from Fordham University and a Master of Business Administration from the university’s Gabelli School of Business.This article was originally published in the Boston Herald.