Petition to Mandate Community Vaccinations and to Allow Opt-Out from In-Person Instruction at The Ohio State University
We, the undersigned faculty at The Ohio State University, are concerned about the safety of the University and Central Ohio community from COVID infection in Fall 2021. All of us are eager to return to the classroom provided it is safe.
The Ohio State University currently lags behind the 346 (as of May 13, 2021) peer institutions requiring that all students be vaccinated, which includes 175 public institutions requiring students to be vaccinated. Moreover, we are concerned that students who refuse to be vaccinated may be overrepresented among our incoming class precisely because we do not mandate vaccination, while students and parents who are concerned about COVID safety would prefer to attend a school with more safety precautions. We request that all community members who attend campus be required to be vaccinated, unless medically exempt, and that public statements such as on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website rejecting a vaccination mandate are halted.
For the purposes of this petition, we define “instructor” as anyone who teaches or who supports instructional goals. This includes professors, lecturers, graduate teaching assistants, and others employed by the university to deliver instruction, but also anyone supporting student learning outside of classrooms such as, for example, staff who provide academic advising.
We petition the OSU leadership to:
1/ require all undergraduate and graduate students who take in-person classes in the 2021-22 academic year, as well as all employees, to show proof of vaccination. The requirement will go into effect on the first day of Fall courses 2021 or when the FDA gives full approval to at least one vaccine, whichever happens later.
The science around Covid-19 and vaccines is clear and compelling. Vaccines are good for public health, not only lowering rates of infection on our campuses, but also in the communities they call home. Research has demonstrated that universities that stayed open significantly contributed to community spread beyond campus, abdicating their duty to their towns and the people who live there. Vaccines will also allow on-campus students and faculty to resume more fully the in-person interactions that are critical to academic success.
We call for this mandate to go in effect now to give students, their families and our employees ample time to make plans to be vaccinated prior to the start of the fall term. OSU already requires all students on campus to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Meningococcal Disease, Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Varicella. It is inconceivable why a COVID-19 vaccination should not be added to this list.
Any person who is not vaccinated endangers the community, especially those who are prevented from getting vaccinated for medical reasons. Therefore, exemptions should be restricted to those required by law.
Students unable to get the vaccine prior to Fall, for example international students because of lack of access in their country, etc., should be provided quarantine dorms, testing, and vaccinations ASAP upon arrival to campus.
2/ enact a policy that, without a vaccine mandate, allows any OSU instructor to opt out of in-person teaching and other forms of in-person engagement with students for the 2021-22 academic year, and to do so free of consequences; and that, with a vaccine mandate, allows those with household medical exemptions or unvaccinated children to opt out, free of consequences. (To be clear, opting out of in-person instruction does not mean opting out of instructional responsibilities altogether – just that other alternatives, such as online instruction, should be allowed.)
Even with a vaccine mandate in place, some instructors may still face pandemic-related issues that require them to teach virtually. For example: emergency vaccinations are not expected to be approved for children younger than 12 until early 2022; many children not yet vaccinated may require at-home childcare; and fluctuation in infections and quarantine at K-12 schools may present childcare challenges.All of us, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with our instructional colleagues and call for applying these policies to all instructors.