Students, faculty weigh opinions on CMU's vaccine protocol

Medical personnel sit at desks, and one talks on the phone Aug. 23 while they prepare for the COVID-19 testing clinic in the Bovee University Center. Students are required to get vaccinated, or undergo weekly testing upon returning to campus.

Central Michigan University’s solution for safely returning to campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has been met with mixed reactions from the campus population. Some agree with the program’s goals, some think it overreaches, and some said it is not enough. 

After an emergency Academic Senate meeting called for a mandate of the vaccine on Aug. 16, CMU resolved to create the “Protect Yourself. Protect Others.” program, which requires all on-campus students, staff and faculty to be either vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, while providing proof of their choice. 

In an Academic Senate meeting on Tuesday, President Bob Davies reported that on campus vaccination rates are now 52 percent of students, 71 percent of faculty and 82 percent of staff. Davies did not say whether the low rate of student vaccination would cause him to reconsider a vaccine mandate. 

Faculty Association President Amanda Garrison called CMU’s decision making “reckless,” and said the program was put into place to keep students on campus who are unvaccinated for political reasons, thus saving the university from its ongoing decline in enrollment. 

Garrison, who was vaccinated in April, said a vaccine mandate would have been better because it would make campus safer. Leaving it up to personal choice was not the right move, she said.  

“Personal choice? What the hell is that?” said Garrison. “You can choose Coke or Pepsi. That’s your choice. You don’t get to choose when you stop at a stoplight. You don’t get to choose when you put your seatbelt on. These are all public safety measures.”

Making matters worse, Garrison said, masks are not enforced enough to not mandate the vaccine. Deans of academic colleges have “inconsistent guidelines” on how to deal with a student who does not wear a mask in class, she said. Some faculty were told to dismiss a mask-less student, and others were told to cancel the entire class because of one student. 

“I’d prefer a full vaccination requirement,” said Erie freshman Maria Evola. “But I understand with how late they made the requirement, it had to have a little bit of compromise. I would like to see something like a mandate in the future. Schools throughout history with polio and all these different pandemics—kids had to get vaccinated and it was just something the whole community did.” 

Iron Mountain freshman Sarah Rivera said vaccination should come down to personal opinion, but it was important to her for keeping people around her safe, especially since her mother is a nurse and her father works with the elderly.

Sophomore Trinity Johnson said CMU’s decision was reasonable because it gives students an “opportunity to express themselves,” even if it is not popular among other students. 

Logan Buczkowski, Mount Pleasant graduate student and CMU baseball player, said getting the vaccine should be a choice and was leaning towards not getting vaccinated until he was required to for participating in athletics.   

In response to the Academic Senate petition, the CMU College Republicans promoted a petition against vaccine mandates on their Instagram bio. 

The organization's Vice President Alyssa Patterson said she is against vaccine mandates and is not vaccinated herself. She said the “Protect Yourself. Protect Others.” program was not a good solution because masks and vaccines will not matter in “cramped classrooms."

“I think it’s better. I don’t think it’s good enough,” Patterson said. “It’s a very political thing to try to stay in the middle instead of doing what they think is right.” 

CMU continues saying that “vaccines are safe and effective” in emails to the campus community, but it is unclear whether this position will extend to a full vaccination mandate in the future. In the meantime, it is still a choice.