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‘It’s not a perfect mandate’; Miami community reacts to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Miami University announced yesterday that all students, faculty and staff are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22, in an email from President Greg Crawford. The announcement was met with a variety of reactions.

Lily Vild, a sophomore pre-medical studies and biology double major, said she agrees with Miami’s policy but also thinks the option for students to exempt themselves is fair.

“I think everyone should get the vaccine,” Vild said. “But honestly, I think [the conscientious exemption option is] good because I feel like if someone’s really not wanting it, if they’re going to go out of their way to write all that and do all that … I don’t know, you can’t make someone [get the vaccine].”

Riley Boeddeker, a senior mechanical engineering major, said she is all for the new requirement.

“I know a lot of people don’t like the mandate, but I think that Miami has a responsibility as a big player in this community, with all the students that are here, that if they don’t hold up their end, they’re kind of allowing it to spread further,” Boeddeker said. 

Boeddeker also said he doesn’t understand why this vaccine is contentious because it is no different from the ones that were required for public schools when he was younger.

“I have a feeling a lot of people are on Tik Tok or Facebook and getting a lot of information that way, versus actually going and looking at the research documents [and] seeing the actual ingredients inside the vaccine,” Boeddeker said. 

Ethan Chiapelli, a sophomore political science major, said he was frustrated when he first learned that Miami was mandating the vaccine. 

“It’s not unheard of to have FDA-approved vaccines required to attend university, but I think that just with the timing of everything and the recentness that the vaccine has been developed, it kind of didn’t make sense to do it so soon,” Chiapelli said. 

Chiapelli said his parents want him to look into filing for exemption of the vaccine, but he will most likely end up getting vaccinated. 

“I just don’t think that it should be something mandated by a public school,” Chiapelli said. “I’ll probably end up getting it just because I love the university so much, and I don't want to have to transfer or leave, but it’s still very frustrating that they’re not giving us a choice.”

Madelyn Jett, student body president, said she is in support of the vaccination mandate.

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“I personally believe [the mandate is] the best thing for the public health of our community,” Jett said. “I was happy, but of course it’s not a perfect mandate.”

Jett said she brought up concerns in her meetings with administration about the lateness of the deadlines and the exemption policy.

“I would really like to see a rigorous review process [for] those exemptions to make sure that those exemptions are based on reasons of science and data and not counterfactual things,” Jett said. 

Cathy Wagner, president of Miami’s chapter of the American Association of University Presidents (AAUP), said the chapter is happy that the university went forward with this decision, but not entirely. 

“We’re delighted that there is a vaccine mandate,” Wagner said, “but really disappointed about the ‘reasons of conscience’ exemption.”

Wagner said the conscientious objection addition to the mandate is problematic.

“If we are aware of the level of research that’s gone into the vaccine, we’re aware that it’s safe,” Wagner said. “If we know the FDA has approved it, then we should stand on our principles as an institution of research and go ahead and say, ‘This is the right thing to do.’ There’s nothing wrong with taking the vaccine. It seems pretty clear that the ‘reasons of conscience’ exemption is giving up the game for political reasons and because of political pressures.”

Wagner said the inclusion of the exemption takes away the possibility of a rigorous mandate. 

Rico Torres, a sophomore integrated language arts education major, said personal health practices need to be put aside for the sake of societal health right now. 

“You have to consider the wider ramifications of [how] your inactions impact everyone else,” Torres said. “It goes beyond college students, it goes to the local community, the families of college students, so it goes beyond just the individual choice.”

Additional reporting for this story was contributed by Grace Killian and Laura Giaquinto.