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Faculty Senate Calls On Penn State To Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines For Fall 2021 Semester

Penn State’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution Wednesday afternoon officially recommending the university implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and employees ahead of the fall 2021 semester.

After nearly two hours of deliberations, the Faculty Senate voted 113-31 to officially call on the university to mandate vaccines. To clarify, a mandate is not yet official. It’s now up to President Eric Barron and his administration to determine if a requirement is right for Penn State. The Faculty Senate’s vote simply reflects support for a mandate from the university’s faculty representation.

The full resolution can be viewed online here.

Some representatives with dissenting opinions said a vaccine mandate would be unfair, noting that current COVID-19 vaccines, unlike already-mandated vaccines for measles and mumps, have been approved for emergency use only so far. Others, including a group of Penn State Behrend “faculty, staff and students,” said they’d take legal action against the university or even quit if a mandate is eventually implemented.

Other Big Ten schools, including Maryland, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Michigan, have already announced plans to require vaccinations for their students ahead of the fall semester.

In late April, the University Park Undergraduate Association, which represents Penn State’s student body, voted 25-10-1 to support a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate. A UPUA-sponsored survey of students this week found 60.03% of the 2,319 respondents would support a mandate, too.

UPUA President Erin Boas attended Wednesday’s meeting and voiced support for a mandate. UPUA College of Arts and Architecture representative Megan Neely said vaccine requirements would help students return to the campus experience they signed up for when they originally came to Penn State, citing a lack of meaningful in-person experiences this year as a major challenge.

Provost Nick Jones said Penn State doesn’t plan on mandating vaccines and is instead mainly focused on incentivizing them and increasing availability. He cited discounts on on-campus meals, drawings for on-campus housing upgrades, gift cards, concert tickets, and more as potential incentives for students.

Jones also noted that potential incentives would apply to both those who have already received vaccines and those who may in the future.

“All of these sound great, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” Jones said. “There are a lot of complexities in this as they relate to aid considerations or text implications for employees. As simple as these are in concept, there’s a lot of details to be worked through in order to facilitate these being effective.”

Penn State previously indicated quarantine exemptions could also be an incentive for students who upload completed COVID-19 vaccine cards to University Health Services’ online portal.

Starting in June, Jones said Penn State could begin making decisions on restrictive measures relating to COVID-19 vaccinations, including requiring evidence of vaccination to purchase tickets for Penn State sporting events or move into dorms. Jones clarified that the university has not made any decisions relating to those potential measures and said it will monitor data over the next month before making any choices.

Jones said the university is also considering sending out surveys to students and employees to obtain Penn State-specific vaccine data. He said Penn State is currently unable to confidently estimate how many have already been vaccinated.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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