By Sarah Flower

First-year and returning students at Fort Lewis College in Durango will have one more item to check off their to-do list before coming to campus this fall. FLC announced Friday that all students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the Fall 2021 semester. We talked to college president Tom Stritikus to learn more.

The college, a public institution, is the first of higher learning in Colorado – and one of the first in the nation – to make such a requirement.

In an interview with KSUT’s Sarah Flower, Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus said they felt the decision was the best way to keep the community safe. He acknowledged that it would make some people uncomfortable.

“But what we shared in our mitigation process was that we were willing to make sacrifices for the greater good,” he added.

That includes protecting a particularly diverse student body. More than 40% of FLC’s students are enrolled members of Native American and Indigenous communities. Many have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19.

Stritikus credited the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes with making sure their enrolled members were vaccinated quickly. Both tribes then opened up vaccine eligibility to the general public. That made the vaccine mandate even easier to justify, according to Stritikus.

“The idea of the vaccine and the availability of the vaccine has been socialized in our community,” he said. “Maybe a bit more than others.”

The COVID vaccine isn’t the only one to be required at Fort Lewis College. Colorado law mandates that all students be vaccinated for MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) before attending class.

Similar to that mandate, some students will be able to opt-out through religious, medical, or other ADA exemptions.

Photo by Stasia Lanier