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The Vax Sweepstakes at Purdue and IU: Keeping score
Purdue, flying under the radar as IU gets raked for new COVID-19 vax requirements, doubles down with a raffle: Prove you have your shot, enter to win a year of tuition
For those keeping score on this week’s Back to School Vaccination Sweepstakes on the state’s two largest campuses …
Purdue seems content to fly just below the radar for now on its nuanced vaccination policy for the fall 2021 semester, as Indiana University continued to be targeted by House and Senate Republicans, not to mention Attorney General Todd Rokita, for requiring that students, faculty and staff show they’d had a COVID-19 shot before the start of the next school year.
Purdue spokesman Tim Doty said Friday that the West Lafayette campus had no plans to change its approach to vaccination guidelines announced two weeks ago. That’s even with Rokita hedging about whether Purdue lived up to a new Indiana law that limits the use of “immunization passports.”
Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Todd Rokita issued a nonbinding opinion that IU’s policy “clearly runs afoul of state law” by requiring students, faculty and staff to show proof that they had a COVID-19 vaccination. Rokita interpreted the law to mean that it wasn’t illegal for IU to require a COVID-19 shot, but it was against a law passed by the General Assembly this spring to force students, staff and faculty to show proof before taking part on campus.
Rokita allowed that Purdue “seems to be using a procedural loophole” with a policy that says students aren’t forced to show they have their COVID-19 shots, as long as they agree to be relegated to protocols of random testing used during the past academic year.
(For more on Rokita’s opinion, his take on IU and Purdue as “arms of the state” and reaction from a West Lafayette lawmaker whose name is on the vax passport law and who says Rokita isn’t reading the law correctly: Check this post from Thursday.)
Doty said that from Purdue’s view, the university’s policy was good to go.
BIG WINNERS: Proceeding as if everything going to plan, Purdue unveiled a huge incentive with its “Old Golden Ticket” raffle.
Price of entry: Register proof of vaccination.
The prize: $9,992, or the equivalent of one year of base, in-state tuition cost.
Ten students who qualify will win, according to Purdue’s announcement Thursday afternoon.
As if avoiding potential quarantines and a semester of random nasal swabs wasn’t enough, there’s an incentive to line up for a COVID-19 shot.
MEANWHILE IN BLOOMINGTON: While Purdue skates – whether because of a perceived technicality or because House and Senate Republicans aren’t keen about taking on Purdue President Mitch Daniels, former Indiana governor – IU has been hit repeatedly for its policy this week.
On Thursday, 35 of 39 Republicans in the Indiana Senate sent a letter to IU President Michael McRobbie, asking him to reconsider the university’s vax stance.
Citing “grave concerns” about requiring “a vaccine that has only an emergency-use authorization, rather than full FDA approval,” the Senate Republicans wrote:
“This heavy-handed mandate goes against many of the liberties on which our founders built our democratic republic. Furthermore, it would force young Americans—statistically the lowest at-risk demographic—into a decision based on economics rather than health and individual responsibility. If they refuse to yield to the university’s vaccine order, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds could lose state and federal aid; some students will lose scholarships; still others could lose deposits because they cannot walk away from binding lease agreements; and employees could find their jobs in jeopardy. Given these realities, it’s no surprise that we have heard from students, parents, faculty, and concerned Hoosier taxpayers (the men and women whose hard-earned money helps fund Indiana University) sharing valid concerns about being coerced into an impossible situation.”
(Of Tippecanoe County/Home of Purdue delegation, watching IU in the wings: Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, was one of four Republicans who did not sign; Sen. Brian Buchanan, a Lebanon Republican whose district includes much of Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, did.)
Earlier in the week, state Rep. Jim Lucas, a Seymour Republican, posted a letter he and 18 other House Republicans sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb, asking the governor to use his executive powers to knock down IU’s requirement.
IU’s response to it all? They were sticking to the science on the Bloomington campus, based on this statement from Thursday:
“Indiana University is requiring the COVID-19 vaccine because it’s the only way the university can confidently return to the experiences and traditions our students, faculty and staff have told us are important to them: in-person classes, more in-person events and a more typical university experience. …
“The science is clear that we need a higher rate of immunity within our IU community. With the new requirement, most restrictions on masking and physical distancing this fall, as outlined in the fall health and safety guidelines announced this week, can be lifted. Requiring the vaccine is the best and fastest way to make sure that happens.”
IU officials also dissected Rokita’s opinion, noting that the attorney general agreed that it was legal to require a vaccine while questioning the method used to verify that students and staff got the shot.
“Although we disagree with that portion of his opinion, we will further consider our process for verifying the requirement,” Chuck Carney, an IU spokesman, said in a statement.
WHAT’S NEXT: In a survey this spring, 80% of Purdue faculty, staff and students who responded indicated that they had a COVID-19 vaccination or planned to get one, according to university figures. How that will translate this fall should be evident by how busy the Protect Purdue testing site is, come August.
Whether state lawmakers take the next step to challenge IU and Purdue plans by reworking the state law? Stay tuned.
YOUR TAKE AT PURDUE: Are you a Purdue student, staff member or faculty member? What’s your take on Purdue’s policy? Are you refusing to get a COVID-19 shot? Send your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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