Having gotten a small but eye-opening window into operations on their campuses this fall, the majority of the students polled by two education-focused companies are in favor of both mask and vaccine mandates.
A new report released by College Pulse and Kaplan shows that 72% of the 1,001 students surveyed want their colleges and universities to require vaccinations. Currently, only about a quarter of institutions across the nation have told adopted those policies. Another 80% want to see masks in indoor settings.
In exit interviews, many students believe that the promised return to a traditional campus hinges on those factors, as COVID-19, delta and potentially new variants slow progress across American communities.
“College students remain eager for a return to normalcy, and most think that for their own safety and the safety of those around them that vaccination and mask mandates, though controversial in some quarters, remain the best solutions to get there,” said Isaac Botier, executive director of college admissions programs at Kaplan.
Still, there was a deep divide in the survey that cut across political lines. Around 95% of students who identified as Democrats favored vaccine and mask mandates, while only 24% of Republicans said they did.
A Democrat-leaning student in favor of mandates noted, “Public health is not a personal freedom. You not getting vaccinated puts everyone at risk,” while a Republican-leaning student said: “If I have a 99.9 % survival rate from COVID and a healthy immune system, why would I ever be concerned?”
Two more interesting viewpoints from those surveyed who were asked about vaccine status on their social lives.
One student said, “I’m vaccinated, so I’m not too worried about myself. Most people I know are vaccinated and those who aren’t we are probably not agreeing on much lately and I may not be hanging out with them right now anyway.”
Another student responded, “Seems very elitist to not interact with someone based on their vaccination status.”
Around the nation
Maryland: Two students from Towson State University and a staffer at the University of Maryland Law School have filed a lawsuit against the University of Maryland system over its vaccine mandate. Plaintiffs say it violates their rights, including the desire to deny medical treatment. The conservative Coalition for Future Maryland, which is working on behalf of the plaintiffs, says, “Chancellor (Jay) Perman and the Board of Regents must provide stronger reasoning for the mandate beyond “speculation, exaggerated fears or post hoc rationalizations.”
Massachusetts: Presidents from 15 community colleges across the Bay State announced they will require COVID-19 vaccines for all students, staff and faculty by 2022. Those include Bunker Hill, Bristol, Cape Cod, Berkshire, Greenfield, Holyoke, Massasoit, MassBay, Middlesex, Mount Wachusett, North Shore, Northern Essex, Quinsigamond, Roxbury and Springfield Technical community colleges. The colleges will continue to offer remote learning options to students.