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Penn State, Sticking With Voluntary COVID Vaccines, Points To Politics As A Factor

Old Main, the administration building, on Penn State's University Park campus
Min Xian

As Penn State continues to encourage — not require — students and employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before the fall semester, one factor it has to contend with is politics.


Democratic Governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed Republican-backed legislation that, among other things, would have prohibited universities and colleges that get state funding from requiring vaccines.


During a June meeting with faculty senators, Provost Nick Jones said university leadership prefers to use incentives and encouragement, instead of a mandate.


In response to a question noting the number of other schools requiring vaccines, Jones said: "Every one of those universities operates in a different state and in a different political environment."


"These are all important considerations," he said. "I know it’s easy to dismiss those as being just political, but we do in Pennsylvania and at Penn State operate in an environment that we have to consider carefully before going down a path."

As of Wednesday, 582 colleges are requiring some or all students or employees to get vaccinated, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In some states, that includes public universities as well as private schools. Indiana University, for example, is a public system that’s requiring students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated before the fall semester. But, the Chronicle’s map also shows that in many states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, few or no universities are mandating vaccination. 

Penn State is asking students, faculty and staff to respond to an anonymous survey about their COVID-19 vaccine status by Friday. That’s along with being asked to submit their vaccination status to the university.

Penn State says it’s monitoring the situation and may alter its approach, if needed. So far, the university has declined to say how many students and employees have reported their vaccine status.


A university spokesman said they plan to share information about the survey and vaccine status before the start of the fall semester.


Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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