Judge approves IU vaccine mandate, Purdue implements 'choice model'
Two Indiana universities have adopted vastly different approaches to student vaccinations for the fall 2021 semester.
Indiana University's vaccine mandate has raised concerns about the financial implications for students that can no longer attend the school as the result of the policy.
In a recent ruling by a federal court, Indiana University can now require coronavirus vaccinations for students and staff before returning to campus this fall.
According to the University’s vaccine policy, “all Indiana University students, faculty and staff will be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Approved exemptions include medical, religious, or ethical dilemmas. However, these students must take extra precautions and will be required to wear masks, take additional covid tests, and quarantine if an outbreak occurs.
A person will not be considered “fully vaccinated” until two weeks after receiving his/her final shot. The University’s covid-19 FAQ page says, “everyone should have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 1, 2021."
Chuck Carney, Indiana University's director of media relations, told Campus Reform that the university, "appreciate[s] the quick and thorough ruling which allows us to focus on a full and safe return. We look forward to welcoming everyone to our campuses for the fall semester.”
Students who refuse to get the vaccine, and do not qualify for an exemption, could have their classes canceled and access to online university systems taken away, according to NPR.
In June, eight undergrad and graduate students sued Indiana University, saying the vaccine mandate violated their constitutional right of “personal autonomy” under the 14th amendment.
The suit asked Indiana’s court system for a preliminary injunction to preserve their right to refuse vaccination before the trial. The court denied the students’ request, allowing Indiana University to lawfully require the vaccine in the months leading up to the trial.
The judge who made the ruling said students who don't want to be vaccinated have other options, like taking a semester off or transferring universities.
Shelby Fugate, a junior Finance major at Indiana University, told Campus Reform that she worries that students who chose IU for its cheaper in-state tuition or certain programs do not have the opportunity to simply transfer universities, as the judge suggests.
“Why do I have to choose between going to a different school, which means losing my in-state tuition, or giving up my right to make my own choices in regard to the vaccine,” Fugate said. “IU is practically forcing us to not choose them. I feel like they don’t want us there.”
According to NPR reporting, one of the attorneys representing the students, James Bopp Jr., said, “an admitted IU student's right to attend IU cannot be conditioned on the student waiving their rights to bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and consent to medical treatment like IU has done here.”
Bopp vowed that he and the students plan to appeal the decision.
However, this is not the only strategy universities are employing to keep students safe.
Purdue University, also in Indiana, has debuted its “choice model” for the vaccination. The president of Purdue, Mitch Daniels, defends his decision in an interview with MSNBC.
“Here at Purdue, we have offered a choice model,” Daniels said. “People can either choose to stay with the system we used all last year, where all of us were subject to surveillance testing on a regular basis, or they can exempt themselves by getting vaccinated.”
Daniels stated that, as of July 19, 60% of Purdue students have registered that they are vaccinated, which is twice the national average for their age group.
Daniella Ferrante, a junior at Purdue University, told Campus Reform that she believes Purdue’s approach is the best option for students.
“The decision Purdue has made is admirable,” said Ferrante. “They aren’t taking the wellbeing of their students lightly since masks and surveillance testing are still required for unvaccinated students. Purdue has taken a very responsible approach.”
President Daniels says his strategy will teach students “personal responsibility.”
“This is about personal education, making a choice that’s right for yourself rather than what you are told is right for yourself. Purdue is teaching us a lesson in weighing the pros and cons of a situation,” Ferrante said.
John Papas Dennerline, a senior engineering student at Purdue, agrees that this method is beneficial to students.
“As opposed to the vaccine mandate, which is basically saying conform or leave, it teaches you to decide for yourself whether you want to take that risk,” Dennerline told Campus Reform. “Personal responsibility is an important lesson, and much better than simply requiring the vaccine.”
“If you want to get vaccinated, you are assuming any risks that come with the vaccine, you are also assuming the benefits,” he continued. “If I decide to get the vaccine, that is a decision I want to make for myself, if the benefits outweigh the risks.”
Purdue University is one of several hundred universities not requiring the vaccine for students this fall.
Purdue University did not respond to requests for comment.