SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras joined the Stony Brook Student Union ribbon cutting celebration. Malatras spoke on the SUNY vaccine requirements in order to attend in-person classes or visiting campus sites. Maya Brown/THE STATESMAN

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Jim Malatras came to Stony Brook University for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly-rebuilt Student Union. The ceremony comes after its reopening last fall semester following three years of renovations. 

The new 177,000-square-foot facility is home to programming venues, meeting rooms, lobbies, lounges and the UNITI Cultural Center. The building also includes a new Club Hub, a designated student club space and an expanded space for the Center for Civic Justice. 

“This is the result of three years of renovation, years of care, strategy, planning and work, all to create a meaningful space for student services and campus engagement towards creating a real heart for the Stony Brook University campus,” University President Maurie McInnis said. 

Malatras said that the university’s number of students who are vaccinated is phenomenal and shows that students want to use campus buildings like the Union.

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“That tells you our students want to be back,” he said. “They want to be back in person, they want to be back congregating at student unions, they want to have activities again. It’s impressive that Stony Brook is once again leading the way on vaccines.”

As of Aug. 25, 88% of all registered students in at least one in-person class and as of Aug. 19, 97% of residential students have submitted their proof of vaccination, according to the university. 

The SUNY Chancellor also commented on vaccination requirements for SUNY students. Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23, SUNY mandated for all SUNY students to be vaccinated.

He said the state of New York had directed SUNY to wait until the full FDA approval. 

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The mandate includes both residential and commuter students, as well as any non-matriculated students that may visit campus. The policy goes into effect in 33 days, giving students a grace period to provide proof of vaccination or if applicable, to submit a request for medical or religious exemptions. Students have until Sept. 24 in order to remain in in-person classes. 

“Anybody attending any in-person instruction, a matriculated student, a non-matriculated student, just a certification —  anyone stepping foot on campus must receive a vaccine,” Malatras said.

However, the vaccine mandate does not include faculty or staff. 

As of Aug. 19, the university reported that 67% of West Campus employees have reported that they are vaccinated. Malatras said he wants to get that number up. He also said that a vaccine mandate for faculty and staff would have to be collectively bargained by the State or they would have to delegate SUNY to do so.

“We’re hopeful though, that all of our faculty and staff get vaccinated as well, because the only way to really end Covid and get rid of all these variables that are getting thrown at us is to get everyone vaccinated,” he said. 

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