As college students across the country head back to campus for the upcoming spring semester, many do so at the risk of being forced to choose between their health and education. Like many academic institutions, the University of Mary Washington (UMW), where I attend, recently announced that all students would be required to receive a Covid-19 booster shot before returning to campus this year.
In an email sent to students on Dec. 30, the university’s administration announced that students “who are currently eligible for a booster will be required to provide proof of booster by Monday, January 10.”
“If you are not yet eligible for the booster (less than six months from second dose of Moderna/Pfizer vaccine or less than two months from J&J vaccine), you will be expected to receive the booster as soon as you are eligible and upload an updated vaccination card within 14 days of eligibility,” the email reads. “Because conditions are evolving, the Public Health team will continue to evaluate whether additional changes will need to be made as we approach the start of the spring semester.”
Students with a religious or medical waiver on file are exempted under the mandate.
To questions from their own students regarding the scientific rationale for the decision, however, the school’s administration has avoided addressing the issue in-depth. After submitting an interview request to discuss the rationale behind the booster mandate with an administrative figure, Associate Vice President for University Relations Anna Billingsley responded back with a copied and pasted statement from the COVID FAQ page of the school’s website.
“Overwhelming evidence has shown that vaccines are extremely effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and death from COVID. Further, the risk is reduced even more in those who have been boosted,” the statement reads. “We are striving to protect all members of our campus community. Omicron is significantly more transmissible than previous variants and we want our community to have the greatest protection possible within our congregant setting and keep students in their classes and activities.”
The statement represents a notable shift in messaging from the university, who last year claimed that the COVID vaccines “drastically [reduced] the potential for COVID-19 outbreaks on campus” and “may help contribute to the reduction of COVID-19 spread in the surrounding Fredericksburg community” when mandating the first round of jabs for students and faculty.
When I again asked to speak with a school official regarding the mandate, Billingsley avoided addressing my request, saying “You have multiple questions about the booster rationale? I doubt there are any questions that would not be addressed here,” wherein she linked back to the same COVID FAQ section she copied from in her previous email.
Nowhere throughout the FAQ statement does the university explain why the college should take the authority for making individual medical decisions from students, even as they tacitly admit in the section devoted to facemasks that the boosters “don’t prevent all infections.”
After submitting two additional requests to speak with someone from the administration, Billingsley finally responded by saying “I really don’t think there’s anything anybody here could say that would provide more information than our COVID FAQ page.”
A request was also made to speak with UMW President Troy Paino, but a spokeswoman for his office said he would be out the whole week.
UMW Continues To Deny Science
Like many American colleges, UMW proclaims to be following the science in its response to Covid. Yet everything about their policies thus far have demonstrated a university out of touch with the data.
For starters, the school completely ignores the low risk the virus poses to young, healthy adults. As Federalist senior contributor Evita Duffy points out, “[W]ithout even controlling for comorbidities, the survival rate for Americans under 65 who have contracted Covid since February 2020 is 99.87 percent.” Moreover, as of January 12, less than 1 percent of the country’s 834,954 COVID-related deaths have been of individuals under the age of 30, with the now-dominant omicron variant demonstrating to be “far less deadly and dangerous than the previous Covid waves.”
What’s more has been the school’s persistent denial of long-term, natural immunity to COVID acquired through a previous infection. Even with more than 140 documented studies demonstrating the robust efficacy of natural immunity, American universities like UMW continue to ignore reality and force shots upon young adults who have naturally acquired protection against a virus that largely poses little risk to them.
No Respect For Individual Health Choices
Students at UMW have also been outspoken about their opposition to the booster mandate, with senior Jean Mondoro telling The Federalist that “choosing to get the vaccine should be a decision made by individuals (or parents, in the case of minors) rather than a dictated requirement.”
“At UMW, we have a community which boasts [about] supporting all views, but once covid hit, that ‘support’ turned into a guilt trip,” she said. “The school didn’t say ‘we think you should get vaccinated, but it’s up to you,’ they said, ‘you MUST get vaccinated, or you are endangering people around you.'”
Mondoro went on to note how the school’s policies have created a “vaccinated vs unvaccinated” dynamic among the student body, where “if you’re part of the minority, you feel the pressure every single day.”
“There’s so much judgment and, yes, discrimination against the unvaccinated population. Rather than creating unity, I see the mandate causing more and more division,” she said. “We’re now fighting each other, which is beyond pointless and discouraging. I’m still waiting for an explanation as to how the mandate is truly in the community’s best interest.”
So, while universities may think they’re “doing the right thing” by mandating COVID jabs for their students, conventional wisdom says otherwise. Not simply are these universities forcing students to choose between what could easily be a never-ending series of jabs or getting an education, they are violating students’ sacred ability to make individual choices regarding their own health.
Determining whether to receive the COVID jab, or any vaccine, for that matter, is a major decision for anyone. But rather than respecting that individual’s judgment, the leadership of institutions like UMW has convinced themselves it is their duty to issue edicts that take away the personal liberties of their students and force them into compliance however they see fit.