WOU announces plans to require COVID-19 vaccine

Western leadership creates incentive program for vaccines

Sydney Carpenter | News Editor

As of May 11, a total of three private and four public universities in Oregon have announced requirements for students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 for the next school year.

Western became the third public university to announce its plans to require students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated for the upcoming school year during a virtual town hall meeting on May 10.

“I wanted something that rewarded students for doing the right thing,” said Johnson, “and I also wanted to push us to have a more safe opening in the fall.”

The incentive program was initialized by Associated Students of Western Oregon University President NJ Johnson to further encourage the community to be vaccinated against the virus. Under the program, people who have received their first dose of the vaccine qualify to receive a $25 WolfStore voucher that can be used for textbooks, Western merchandise or other miscellaneous items found at the bookstore. To receive the voucher, a vaccine card and student ID must be presented to the Werner University Center information desk.

According to Johnson, the program is currently being funded by the General Fund and anticipates it costing around $100,000. The intent is to eventually have the program funded by the emergency relief fund, however, due to the ambiguity of what emergency relief is permitted to be used for, the university is still working with the federal government to determine if the program is legally permitted to be funded this way.

Western intends to provide students with the opportunity to take in person classes next term. During the virtual town hall meeting, the modalities were presented as follows: in person classes will make up 53% of Western’s curriculum, 22% hybrid, 19% online asynchronous and 6%  online synchronous; departments were not specified.  For students planning to live on campus next year, Tina Fuchs announced reduced capacity in the residence halls. Ackerman will be filled to 85% capacity while Arbor Park will be filled to 100%. Barnum and Landers will be assessed on a need basis. 

The COVID vaccine is not the only required vaccination by the institution; according to the Student Health and Counseling website, all admitted students are required to have the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine before coming to campus. Exceptions include being born before Jan. 1, 1957, religious beliefs and specific nonmedical related issues that are provided by the state of Oregon. Western is still currently researching exemptions for COVID.

“Many of the details remain unfinished,” said Western Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Hagemann, “and that’s because we have to speak to our community.” 

Hagemann went on to say how the university is making this a priority and is trying to get it right.

“This really relates to the idea that we should be able to have a safe community,” said President Rex Fuller during the May 10 virtual town hall meeting. “We know that being together in face to face encounters with careful safety planning, we have a better educational experience for all of our students, faculty and staff.”

Contact the author at scarpenter18@mail.wou.edu

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