Students attending Indiana University this semester must be vaccinated for Covid-19 if they are planning to go to class in person, a highly contested position recently backed by the Supreme Court that has some students questioning its legality.
Following reports of entire grades being sent home across the country due to new Covid-19 outbreaks in school, the board at Indiana University decided that it would be taking no chances this semester. Issuing a vaccine mandate, students must be vaccinated before Aug. 23 if they wish to attend in person.
Eight students petitioned the court for an emergency order, arguing that the potential risks of the vaccine outweighed the benefits, but their attempt was shot down. Citing a court decision from 1905 that made it legal for the country to enforce a vaccine mandate when the nation was stricken with polio, the courts ruled that Indiana University’s decision was far less demanding, especially since there are exceptions for those who have certain medical conditions or are exempt due to religious reasons.
What Happens to Students Who Aren’t Vaccinated?
If a student cannot get vaccinated by Aug. 23, Indiana University will have them undergo weekly testing for Covid-19 until they are able to get the vaccine, in order to monitor their status.
Unvaccinated students still have many options, such as viewing select classes online, applying for exemption, taking the semester off and waiting, or attending another university.
“People who do not want to be vaccinated may go elsewhere,” Judge Easterbrook wrote in his statement denying to block the vaccine mandate in the lower courts. He stated that the mask requirements and frequent testing were “not constitutionally problematic,” citing that the “plaintiffs have ample educational opportunities.”
“I was expecting more Covid stuff and more regulations,” a student just moving into their dorm told The Herald Times, “but it was still safe at the same time.”
Will Enrollment Drop?
Despite complaints that the vaccine mandate is illegal, many students are expected to comply for the sake of their education.
Alyssa Jones, a 19-year-old student at Virginia Tech, has been leading a group of students to protest her school’s vaccine mandate, but says that if the school will not budge then she will go ahead and get the shot so she doesn’t risk her education.
Jones, who is the state chair of the 400-school-wide Libertarian organization Young Americans for Liberty, told NBC News that she is, “waiting until the last possible minute,” but that she would, “get vaccinated if I am unsuccessful.”
Her education is “not something I’m willing to sacrifice at this time,”Jones said. “Of the options available, that’s the one with the least repercussions.”
Students have the right to un-enroll and attend another university without the mandate, but every day another school joins in the vaccine requirement.
UCLA, Michigan State, Stanford, Harvard, Duke, New York University, Maryland, Colorado, Notre Dame, and many more, have all implemented vaccine mandates.
Are Parents Happy About the Mandate?
Vaccine hesitancy is still at its most prevalent among parents, especially those with children ages 12-17.
According to a poll conducted by ParentsTogether, a national vaccine advocacy group, only 58% of participating parents said they would vaccinate their children against Covid-19.
Bethany Robertson, co-founder of ParentsTogether, stated that she believes that, “colleges do need to get ahead of this and think about how this is going to play out.”
“We need to start the conversation with parents now, to build trust and understanding about how getting kids vaccinated against Covid-19 protects their health, their family’s health and the health of our communities,” Robertson said. “No matter what decision one makes, one group will ultimately be displeased.”
If students choose to un-enroll and attend another university, their tuition will be returned, but parents and students also have the option of waiving the Fall semester and returning to campus the following year in 2022.