Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Failure to comply with University of New Mexico COVID-19 mandates means 256 students are being disenrolled throughout the university system, which includes the main campus in Albuquerque, UNM’s Health Sciences Center, and branches in Gallup, Los Alamos, Taos and Valencia County.
Cinnamon Blair, the university’s chief marketing and communications officer, said 164 of those students were enrolled on the Albuquerque campus. Friday was the deadline to comply with UNM’s mandate.
Students were required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or to acquire an approved exemption for medical or religious reasons, or because they were taking remote-study classes off campus.
Exempted students who are on campus are required to submit weekly, medically validated COVID-19 tests to the UNM vaccine verification site. For the fall semester only, students who have not been vaccinated or exempted are permitted to remain at UNM as long as they submit weekly COVID-19 tests results.
Blair said students who are being removed from UNM classes are those who have in no way attempted to respond to UNM’s COVID-19 requirements.
“Students facing disenrollment have been receiving daily messages for over a month and, prior to that, biweekly messages,” she said. “We have also conducted phone and text campaigns from Enrollment Management and our resource centers, as well as from branches, to contact these students.”
UNM’s online vaccination site shows 92.2% of students on the Albuquerque campus have been vaccinated and that 91.8% of students throughout the university system are vaccinated.
In a statement released by UNM, James P. Holloway, UNM provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the university is very pleased with the vaccination numbers and hopes to see them improve, especially as new employees and students continue to join UNM.
“The UNM vaccination program has consisted of multiple elements that worked together to get us where we are,” Holloway said in the statement. “This wasn’t just a mandate. The vaccination program included incentives, education, vaccination clinics on campus, peer-to-peer outreach by our Lobo Prevention Pack and other student groups, and a vaccination mandate.”
UNM faculty and staff are also required to be vaccinated or apply for an exemption and submit weekly COVID test results. According to the university vaccination site, 99.2% of the faculty and 94.8% of the staff on the Albuquerque campus have been vaccinated. Overall, 98% of UNM faculty and 95.7% of UNM staff members are vaccinated.
Staff and faculty who do not comply also face consequences. Staff members may be given a non-disciplinary notice of separation, which means employment is ended for reasons other than misconduct.
The process for faculty members varies according to the individual’s employment or contract status, but actions may range from unpaid suspension to termination.
“We have had only a few faculty and staff members who have been engaged in the separation process,” Blair said. She said there had been no faculty separations so far, but there have been four staff separations.
Blair said students who have been disenrolled do not have to return financial aid received during the fall term, but disenrollment may affect their chances to get aid in the future.
“That’s because they will not receive credit in the fall semester, and certain forms of financial aid require that a student demonstrate good standing and regular progress toward a degree,” she said.
Disenrolled students may return to UNM in the spring semester as long a they provide proof of vaccination or request and receive a qualified exemption.
UNM is advising students returning to UNM for the spring semester, or those entering the university for the first time that semester, to submit vaccination information to the university’s verification site or request an exemption as soon as possible.
“UNM’s goal is to protect the health of members of the community and to make it possible for students to continue their education in a COVID-safe environment,” Blair said.
Meanwhile, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces is requiring that more than 7,500 employees, including student employees, be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 in order to comply with federal requirements for federal contractors. NMSU maintains millions of dollars in federal contracts that support research and development.
NMSU employees will be allowed to apply for medical or religious exemptions to the vaccine requirement. According to the university, more than 85% of its employees have provided proof of vaccination.
Students who are not NMSU employees have the option to forego vaccination if they submit weekly COVID test results.