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Kirk French’s Campaign Calls On Penn State To ‘Up The Ante’ On Vaccine Incentives

A new initiative spearheaded by anthropology professor Dr. Kirk French is calling on Penn State to boost efforts to incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees.

In a video posted to YouTube Tuesday, French said mandating the vaccine before students return to campus in August is perhaps the only way to secure a return to normalcy in Happy Valley. But there are just about two months until the fall semester’s start, and Penn State’s administration has already doubled down on avoiding requirements despite faculty and student support for a mandate.

If a mandate is off the table, a good place to start, French suggested, would be implementing a sprawling lottery system for those who’ve uploaded completed COVID-19 vaccine cards to myUHS.

Coincidentally, Penn State did just that on Tuesday by rolling out plans for weekly drawings with prizes like $1,000 payments, Barnes & Noble gift cards, and footballs signed by James Franklin. Still, French thinks Penn State can do better.

In the four-minute-long clip, French said he’s already personally used connections to round up a number of incentives, including gift cards to State College businesses, vouchers for bars, and even a lunch with Mike the Mailman. He challenged Penn State to hold up its end of the bargain by raffling off tuition waivers for University Park and Commonwealth Campus students.

“I’m just trying to get them to up their game,” said French, who plans on turning his collected incentives over to the university if it accepts his offers. “I will not be handling any of those prizes, as I will not have access to vaccination records. Nor do I want to. That sounds like a nightmare.”

In a statement, a Penn State spokesperson said cash incentives were chosen for the raffle based on input gathered from students. The university considered “many options” but focused on monetary bonuses because they were the most direct and likely wouldn’t complicate students’ financial aid packages.

“We certainly welcome local businesses making their own efforts to incentivize everyone to get vaccinated as well, and we will of course monitor the effectiveness of our program and may adjust it as we progress,” a Penn State spokesperson said via email.

French said supporting vaccinations is incredibly important for him as an educator. He feels encouraging vaccinations is the only way to safely teach the 726 students enrolled in his ANTH 140: Booze & Culture course this fall.

“For me, I want a vaccine mandate. It’s really the ONLY way that things will be actually safe. But the Board of Trustees is most likely NOT going to do that…So, I decided to take matters into my own hands,” French said. “I just want our campus and community safe…How can we safely have 110,000 people in Beaver Stadium in the fall? How can we tailgate, hang out in bars, sit in a class? What I’m doing might not make a difference at all, but I have to try.”

To take part in Penn State’s weekly drawings this summer, fully vaccinated students and employees must submit proof of their immunization and fill out this brief online survey. Students can complete the former through myUHS, while employees can follow this step-by-step guide.

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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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