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Public universities and their students battle over mandates for the Covid-19 vaccine

By Stephen Lloyd

Kayla Stissel, a first-year student at the University of Florida, gets her first COVID-19 vaccine from UF nursing student Taylor Collins at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on April 5, 2021. Brad McClenny

ATLANTA, GA ( – As nearly half of the adult United States population gets vaccinated, college-aged students are resisting getting the jab. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 34% of 18- to 24-year-olds have received the COVID-19 vaccine, creating the debate over whether colleges can require the vaccine.

Hundreds of colleges across the country have stated that they will require their students to be fully vaccinated for the fall 2021 semester, and according to a recent study, conducted by College Finance, 3 in 4 students believe the vaccine should be required. States such as California, Oregon, and Colorado are allowing public universities to require COVID-19 vaccination to attend their institutions. Other states like Texas have recently passed laws prohibiting public universities from mandating students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In states that have allowed this mandate many college students do not plan to comply and as a result, many students are protesting on college campuses.

Rutgers University campus, Brunswick, New Jersey.

At Rutgers University, in Brunswick, New Jersey, many students are participating in a protest against the university’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate. Sara Razi, a 21-year-old junior at Rutgers, is one of the students planning on attending the protest. “Vaccinations are a personal and a private choice and students should have the right to choose whether or not they want to take a vaccine that is experimental,” Razi added. “Therefore, a public institution like Rutgers should not have the right to dictate a student’s personal decisions.”

University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus.

As for Tennessee, public universities are not requiring students to be fully vaccinated this fall. The board over the University of Tennessee system voted last year to require students at all campuses to be fully vaccinated but reversed that decision in April. Other public universities in Tennessee such as Austin Peay State University, University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, and Tennessee Tech University plan to return to in-person classes this fall without COVID-19 vaccination mandates. Virginia Campbell, a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is happy about the decision. Campbell said, “Personally, I don’t think they should be requiring everyone to get vaccines. We don’t really know how it will affect us down the road and of course, we don’t really know how the virus will affect us either”


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