By Olivia King
As COVID cases continue to rise, colleges across the state of Michigan have adopted various new policies for students in preparation for the upcoming 2021 fall semester.
In the heat of the pandemic at the beginning of the 2020 academic year, Rochester University gave students the option to attend classes in person or attend classes virtually over Zoom or Google Meet if they were uncomfortable being physically present in class.
Oakland University, a sister school 10 minutes from Rochester University in Auburn Hills, held the same class policy. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, requested that all students remain online unless enrolled in a class requiring a lab or art portion.
When the first COVID vaccines were available in December 2020, a limited number of people were able to obtain the vaccine, depending upon their age, career and health difficulties.
Now, individuals 16 and older can receive the vaccine from a county health department; various retailers, such as Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens; and from some local doctor’s offices.
In light of this, Michigan universities are now either encouraging, requiring or simply have no official comment released about their students receiving the COVID vaccine.
On April 4, Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, president of Oakland University, released a statement announcing that all students living on campus, in dorms, apartments, or cottages, must be vaccinated by Aug. 27. She concluded the message with the sentence, “By immunizing our entire community, we can return to pre-pandemic normalcy.”
Shayla Huynh, a sophomore at Oakland, believes that vaccines should always be a choice even in the face of a global pandemic.
“I believe that colleges should not mandate students to get the COVID vaccines. Students should have the right to choose whether they want to or not. Everyone has their own thoughts about the vaccine and, therefore, should not be forced,” Huynh said.
On the other side of the argument, Eastern Michigan has decided not to enforce the vaccine as a requirement for the fall semester. EMU's University Communications released a statement on March 15 with a reminder to socially distance in preparation for the upcoming semester and it has instead altered its mask policy instead of incorporating the vaccine. Students on campus will be required to wear three masks layered on top of one another or wear one N95 or KN95. Both masks are reported to keep out 95% of unfiltered air.
This is Allison Piggott’s first year at Eastern, and even though her university is not currently requiring the vaccine, she is dreading when that day might come. “I don’t think universities should require students to get the COVID vaccine. I believe only private institutions should have the option to do so. When public universities like Eastern, Western or Central Michigan start doing so, the idea just seems wrong to me. Colleges shouldn’t be able to tell us what to put in our bodies, especially when we pay them to attend their classes. I wouldn’t describe myself as an anti-vaxxer, but it doesn’t sit well with me that schools are beginning to require certain vaccinations,” Piggott said.
To current student knowledge, Rochester University has remained impartial in releasing any new vaccination requirements for its students. The updated COVID regulations can be found on the school’s website, which promises health checks, wearing masks and socially distancing.
On a neutral note, on April 5, Rochester did partner with Rite Aid to plan to create a clinic on campus where COVID vaccines would be administered to students who WANTED them. A form was needed with the individuals’ information to determine an appropriate number of doses.
From the author’s perspective, I am immunocompromised and have received both doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. I wanted to get the vaccine to feel safer attending classes in person and working in the community to help my immune system fight the disease if needed.
I am still unsure how I would feel if I was told to get the vaccine instead of choosing to get vaccinated for myself.
Regardless of which side of the vaccine society is on, it is apparent that COVID is not going away as quickly as people would have hoped. It is still an evident threat that requires everyone to protect one another and wear masks when in the proximity of others.