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Penn State Student Government Leaders Call For COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements

Penn State student government leaders issued a statement Saturday night demanding Penn State’s Board of Trustees hold an emergency meeting to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees ahead of the fall semester.

The letter, signed and endorsed by UPUA President Erin Boas, UPUA Vice President Najee Rodriguez, and Graduate and Professional Student Association President Schönn Franklin, urged Penn State to move quickly as COVID-19’s delta variant spreads across the country.

“The time to act is now. There must be ample time for those who remain unvaccinated to become at least partially vaccinated by the start of the fall semester,” they wrote. “We have a duty to protect our communities and all those who belong to the Penn State community, and requiring vaccinations will ensure just that.”

In their letter, the student government leaders demanded the Board of Trustees meet and mandate vaccines for students and employees before the fall semester begins. Currently, the board isn’t scheduled to meet again until September 16 and 17.

If it passed a mandate, Penn State would join more than half of the Big Ten by requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. RutgersIndianaMichigan StateNorthwesternMarylandIllinois, and Michigan each have similar requirements, although some let unvaccinated people bypass vaccines if they test negative for the virus each week.

“With over 96,000 students and 31,000 full-time employees, the Pennsylvania State University must join its fellow universities in the prioritization of community health and safety,” the letter reads.

UPUA and GPSA leadership also called on Penn State to continue testing students for COVID-19 and offering quarantine and isolation space on campus. Although capacity has lessened from last year, Penn State will reserve 200 Eastview Terrace rooms for students affected by COVID-19.

Earlier this summer, Penn State launched “anonymous,” non-mandatory surveys to learn if students and employees were vaccinated. To date, the university hasn’t published any collected data. It’s unclear how many students and employees are already vaccinated against COVID-19.

So far, Penn State has largely shied away from requiring vaccines. Instead, it’s focused on incentivizing vaccinations by hosting free vaccine clinics on campus and hosting weekly raffles and drawings for vaccinated students and employees.

Back in May, Penn State’s Faculty Senate voted to overwhelmingly recommend vaccine requirements for students and employees returning to campus this fall. The non-binding vote showed only support, though, and did not result in new Penn State policies.

UPUA passed a similar resolution last spring supporting vaccine requirements.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19’s delta variant packs an approximate 50% increase in transmissibility rates and severe symptoms. Cases in vaccinated individuals are rare, but those with symptoms could still spread the virus to others.

COVID-19 cases are up significantly in Pennsylvania lately. The state reported 1,110 new cases Saturday, marking its second straight day with more than 1,000 new reported positives.

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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 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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