Cornell Offers Race-Based Exemption From Mandatory Flu Shot Policy for Students Who Identify As “Black, Indigenous, Or A Person Of Color”

Cornell University
Cornell’s vaccination policy offers exemptions to students based on both medical and religious grounds. However, a third option offers potential exemptions to students who identify as a Person of Color who may be emotionally impacted by racism. Photo credit: Spiroview Inc / Shutterstock.com, licensed.

ITHACA, NY – Cornell University has instituted a new mandatory flu shot policy for its student body, but is currently offering race-based exemptions to students who identify as People of Color, according to Cornell Health’s health requirement FAQ.

The Ivy League school, located in Ithaca, New York, has recently made vaccinations a requirement for all students, and will be imposing numerous penalties upon those who are non-compliant with their health policy, including being banned from using various on-campus faculties and the withholding of funds.

“Students who arrive on campus without having met their health requirements will have a temporary hold placed on their registration status,” states the school’s health requirement FAQ. “These students can still register for, attend, and drop/add classes, but will not be able to use the Book Store, library, fitness centers, and some other campus facilities until they complete their requirements. Some students may also experience delays in receiving stipends.”

Cornell’s vaccination policy offers exemptions to students based on both medical and religious grounds. However, a third option offers potential exemptions to students who identify as a Person of Color who may be emotionally impacted by racism.


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“Students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or as a Person of Color (BIPOC) may have personal concerns about fulfilling the Compact requirements based on historical injustices and current events, and may find this information helpful in considering an exemption,” states the school’s health requirement FAQ, under the “Are exemptions from Cornell’s immunization requirements ever granted?” section.

This exemption policy does not apply to Caucasian students, although it is possible for that segment of the student body to apply for an exemption under either the medical or religious clauses.

In another statement, Cornell’s clarified their reasoning for the BIPOC exemption:

“We recognize that, due to longstanding systemic racism and health inequities in this country, individuals from some marginalized communities may have concerns about needing to agree to such requirements. For example, historically, the bodies the of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) have been mistreated, and used by people in power, sometimes for profit or medical gain.”

Nonetheless, Cornell is encouraging students of color to receive flu immunizations, citing “long-standing social inequalities and health disparities have resulted in COVID-19 disproportionately affecting BIPOC individuals.”

As far as reaction to this policy, Campus Reform spoke to one Cornell undergraduate – who asked to remain unnamed – that stated they thought the policy was unfair.

“All students deserve equal treatment regarding what healthcare choices they are allowed to make at Cornell,” they said. “Because students of all identities may have personal concerns about taking a mandatory vaccine, having a policy statement that singles out BIPOC students for requesting an exemption is unfair for other students.”

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