Elite colleges universities across the country are imposing COVID-19 bivalent vaccine mandates on students returning to campus for the spring 2023 semester.
Yale University, Fordham University, Harvard University, University of Notre Dame, Tufts University and Wellesley College all require students to receive a bivalent booster shot, which protects against the original and omicron variant, in order to return to campus after winter break, the schools announced. However, some students are opposing the schools’ continued reliance on mandates.
Notre Dame students are required to submit proof of their bivalent shot or granted exemption to continue enrollment for the 2023-2024 academic year, according to its website. The mandate applies to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students, even if they are “studying or performing or researching remotely.”
Charles Yockey, a Notre Dame student, told the DCNF that while he does not have to get the booster because he is graduating, he feels “that mandating successive rounds of booster shots each time one is developed is not necessary to protect the campus community and constitutes an unwarranted intrusion in students’ lives.”
“I think it’s important to use data to inform institutional responses to COVID — Notre Dame hasn’t articulated empirical targets to inform their response this semester, so it’s not clear to students what objectives the university would like to achieve or how the bivalent booster is necessary for accomplishing them,” he said.
The average cost of tuition at Notre Dame for the 2022-2023 academic year is $80,211, according to its website.
Notre Dame student Connor Tsikitas told the DCNF that he has seen “general confusion regarding the new mandate” about why it was necessary. He said that “most people seem to feel as if it’s just another mandate like the ones imposed previously.”
Yockey claimed that “[s]tudents feel beleaguered and have come to accept domineering COVID policies, handed down without justification.” He further alleged that these mandates are “an inevitable part of university life in 2022.”
Yale University’s policy requires all students to receive a bivalent shot by Jan. 31; however, faculty and staff are only encouraged, according to its website. Students who do not comply with the mandate could be referred to the Compact Review Committee and threatened with “administrative action.”
Fordham University students enrolled in in-person classes are required to receive a bivalent vaccine, its website states. Students can request a medical or religious exemption but may be removed from classes should confirmed cases increase on campus.
At Harvard University, students who do not comply with the bivalent booster mandate cannot enroll in classes, according to its website. Faculty are not required, but are encouraged, to be fully up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Wellesley College students were required to comply with the bivalent booster mandate which went into effect Dec. 1.
“We disavow the university’s continued intrusion on the personal medical decisions of the student body,” Trent Bunker, a student at Tufts University and President of Tufts Republicans, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “As it currently stands, the vaccine will not prevent transmission, though it may protect from serious illness. However, this should clearly render it optional, as personal noncompliance creates no public health risk.”
The average cost of attendance at Tufts University for the 2022-2023 academic year is $82,000, according to its website. In addition to the COVID-19 bivalent booster, students are required to get the flu shot while faculty are only encouraged, according to a September announcement.
Bunker said that while he has tried to talk with administrators about COVID-19 decisions, his attempts have been unsuccessful.
“Unfortunately, nothing is being done against the mandates aside from the massive noncompliance which in many ways is an act of protest,” he said.
Yale University, Fordham University, Harvard University, University of Notre Dame, Tufts University and Wellesley College did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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