Last week, The New York Times reported that over 400 colleges and universities nationwide are requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus in the fall. At least 14 Indiana institutions of higher education are among those requiring these vaccinations, most recently including Indiana University, the state’s largest academic institution.
Indiana University and its president, Michael McRobbie, along with other leaders statewide, should be commended for the thoughtful and data-informed decisions that have characterized their leadership throughout the course of the pandemic, including the decision that some have reached now to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all students, faculty and employees. Educational community settings are unquestionably among those instances in which vaccine requirements make the most sense.
Throughout 2020 and into 2021, leaders of the state’s higher education institutions diligently oversaw complex and proactive COVID-19 testing regimens as well as contact tracing and quarantining protocols, in demonstrably successful efforts to bring students and faculty safely back to campus. Different university leaders pursued varying approaches in these efforts to reopen and keep open their campuses–but all provided creative, responsive and effective leadership under the most challenging circumstances imaginable. And these efforts worked remarkably well.
When combined with adoption of online and socially distanced learning, the mitigation programs enacted by the state’s colleges and universities enabled Indiana’s students to continue their education even as the pandemic ebbed and flowed over the course of the academic year.
All of this speaks to exactly why university leaders like Dr. McRobbie, Father John Jenkins at Notre Dame, and other higher ed leaders across the state should be applauded now for taking bold action and leading the way once again as we seek to return to more normal life. In this case, with the decision to require vaccinations. Simply put, as we all know, vaccination is our most readily available ticket back.
The steps these leaders are taking are arguably among the best, fastest–and safest–ways to help more of us get there. Just as IU did in developing its original COVID-19 mitigation protocols last fall, the decision now to require vaccination is based on current science and the vast amount of data readily available to evaluate and rely upon the twin virtues of proven safety and high efficacy that continue to characterize all the currently authorized COVID vaccines.
Despite COVID-19’s many challenges, Indiana University has been able to educate more than 90,000 students across its nine campuses over the past academic year, all while continuing to employ more than 21,000 faculty and staff. Along with providing education, these IU campuses and those who work and learn on them serve a critical economic and social function, driven primarily by in-person interactions, that further the growth of the state both today and tomorrow. Taking additional steps like this announced mandate, to further ensure the safety of those who regularly find themselves on campus or in class surrounded by scores of fellow students and colleagues, is commendable leadership. It is indeed another, helpful step forward in our continued, shared drive to get Indiana back to learning, to work–and to better days ahead.