Plans in place for return to classrooms

Vaccine requirements vary; some institutions offer financial incentives

Bethel College tennis coach Gabe Johnson, left, talks to one of his players, Michael Cech, a sophomore from Modlany, Czech Republic, as students move into dorms. — Chase Dempsey/Bethel College Bethel College tennis coach Gabe Johnson, left, talks to one of his players, Michael Cech, a sophomore from Modlany, Czech Republic, as students move into dorms. — Chase Dempsey/Bethel College

Mennonite colleges and universities returning to classrooms this fall are using everything from blanket requirements to cash prizes to encourage students and staff to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College are requiring all students to be vaccinated — EMU before students arrive on campus, ­Goshen within a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives full approval. Both will allow students to seek a waiver for medical or religious exemption.

At EMU, proof of vaccination may be a requirement to participate in off-campus experiences such as internships, mentorships and cross-cultural programs. Faculty and staff will not be required to be vaccinated. Everyone is required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status for the first three weeks.

Goshen is not requiring employees to be vaccinated, but those who aren’t must get a weekly test, along with any unvaccinated students who have a medical or religious exemption. Masks will be required for everyone in shared public spaces until 90% of students and employees are vaccinated.

After having online-only instruction all of the last academic year, ­Fresno Pacific University is back to in-person instruction and requiring all residential students and student-athletes to be vaccinated before returning to the main campus.

“Everyone is highly encouraged to be vaccinated,” but religious beliefs and health issues will be respected. The unvaccinated will be required to wear masks, which are required for everyone indoors.

Other institutions are refraining from requirements, turning instead to consequences and incentives.

Bluffton University students and employees are “strongly encouraged to obtain a vaccination,” but this will not be mandated. Because the NCAA is considering weekly testing for athletes who are not vaccinated and for teams that do not have an 85% vaccination rate, any student athlete who chooses not to be vaccinated will pay for their testing costs three times a week.

If an outbreak occurs on campus, unvaccinated students may be required to participate in random testing. No isolation or quarantine spaces will be provided.

Bethel College is not requiring COVID vaccinations but is paying every vaccinated student and employee $250. The funds come from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, a federal program created in March to ensure learning continues during the pandemic. All vaccinated individuals will be entered in drawings that will award three $1,887 prizes, representing the year the college was founded, Oct. 2 during Fall Festival.

Masks will be required of everyone in indoor groups of 10 or more. Unvaccinated individuals must wear masks as well in smaller groups.

Hesston College is offering a financial incentive, a $20 Amazon gift card for each vaccinated student. Policy requires masks “be worn when in an indoor shared space when in the presence of others.” Quarantined students will pay daily meal-delivery fees, and the college may impose on athletes measures more stringent than dictated by governing bodies.

Tabor College “students and employees are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated,” and two vaccination clinics will be held at the beginning of the semester, but shots are not required. Vaccinated individuals will not have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID. “A modest dollar amount” will be added to vaccinated students’ accounts for purchases around campus. No physical distancing is planned for classes or in the dining hall, and all events are open to the public with no restrictions.

Canadian Mennonite University is not mandating vaccinations for students and staff, in compliance with Canadian law, but requests all members of its learning community consider being vaccinated as a form of social responsibility and expression of care for others. As of July, a voluntary anonymous survey of staff showed 95% indicated they are vaccinated. (Update: CMU announced Aug. 19 that new understandings of the legal context prompted the university to require all students and staff be vaccinated in order to be on campus this fall.)

CMU anticipates holding 90% of classes in-person, with 10% online, along with some hybrid extensions of classes for students who cannot attend for COVID-related reasons.

Conrad Grebel University College is supporting advocacy efforts to Ontario’s provincial government to make vaccination mandatory for anyone studying or working at post-secondary institutions. Grebel is requiring vaccination to live in its residences. Anonymous declaration of vaccination status will be required to be on campus. This data will be used to plan health and safety strategies.

Tim Huber

Tim Huber is associate editor at Anabaptist World. Read More

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