Like many public colleges across the United States, George Mason University recently announced mandated COVID booster shots for the entire student body ahead of the school’s upcoming spring semester.
In an email sent to students on Dec. 31, President Gregory Washington announced the school would be moving forward with a booster requirement for all students and faculty, claiming that the outbreak of the omicron variant “has changed the rules” and requires the school to “adapt accordingly.”
“Public health experts have advised that vaccines are still the most effective tools to combat COVID-19, and recent scientific data overwhelmingly supports the effectiveness of booster shots in preventing severe disease and hospitalization.” the email reads. “As we have seen, circumstances can change quickly, so our health and safety team and university administrators will continue closely to monitor conditions and will notify the Mason community of any change in plans as soon as is possible.”
Under University Policy 1416, failure to upload either vaccine documentation or an exemption form “may result in a hold being placed on the student’s account, late fees, disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion, and other appropriate actions.” Residential students who are not in compliance are not allowed to live on campus.
Despite their best attempts to mandate the COVID boosters for the upcoming semester, the university has since witnessed a growing wave of backlash from its student body. Jacob Meckler and Robert Fellner are two of the more than 600 students who have signed a petition demanding that the school revoke its booster edict. While speaking to The Federalist, both detailed how the pushback among the student-body is much greater over the booster than the first jab mandate put in place last year, with Meckler citing the administration’s lack of credibility as the root cause.
“A lot of people said, ‘Well, if we can lose the masks, I’m not going to throw a fit because I get something I really want out of it.’ And then by the time that they told us we wouldn’t get anything out of it, classes were already starting,” he said. “There was a lot of anger, but it was hard to get anyone to do anything. I think this time when they pushed again, nobody trusts them. So, when [the administration] says like, ‘Oh, just one more booster,’ nobody believes that anymore. Everyone knows that if we let this keep going, it will never stop.”
Both Antonin Scalia Law School attendees also noted the personal impact on students’ educational careers, with Fellner describing how the administration is forcing them to choose between their health and education.
“There’s no real free choice here. If I say no, I can’t even transfer, I lose my scholarship, and my entire first year of law school basically gets wiped out,” he said. “I have to hope next year I could find somewhere to start all over again. That to me is so gross and so unethical.”
Meckler went on to echo similar sentiments, saying that the school’s COVID vaccination policy leaves students with “no free choice.”
“When I signed up two and a half years ago to come here, I got the list of vaccines I would be required to take and I agreed to those,” said Meckler. “That’s a different thing than being told two and a half years in, ‘Hey, you can abandon the entire project that you spent the last two and a half years working on and paid us $50,000 for the privilege of doing.'”
George Mason’s vice president for strategic communications and marketing Paul Allvin was originally slated to discuss the booster mandate with The Federalist, but did not show up for his scheduled interview.
Fellner says that while he’s been surprised with the level of support he’s seeing, the behavior of the administration regarding the booster mandate has made him “more comfortable making decisions” that could lead to “enormous personal cost.”
“It’s heightened my sense of injustice with what they’re doing here,” he said. “They know they’re coercing the kids. The kids understandably can’t sacrifice, especially when you’re 22, 23. So that’s really motivated me.”
Students fighting back against the school’s medical coercion are currently scheduled to hold a protest at the university’s Fairfax campus on Jan. 28 against the booster mandate.
UPDATE: Allvin notified The Federalist that George Mason University is no longer requiring faculty and staff to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or share their vaccination status.
“One key update is that we are now encouraging, though not requiring, employees to vaccinate and share their vaccination status. This is a reflection of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive directive, issued on Saturday,” he said. “We are combing through our website to make appropriate updates, so if you look on the site as of right now, not all of the wording has caught up with the executive directive.”