With the fall semester fast approaching and in-person classes set to begin on Wednesday, Sept. 8, UW-Madison’s COVID-19 protocol has become central to the campus-wide discourse.
In a statement, Associated Students of Madison (ASM) Chair Adrian Lampron and Vice-Chair Lennox Owino expressed their sincere hope for a safe school year.
“Being back in person is exciting, but we cannot take this opportunity for granted and must do our part by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when necessary,” said Lampron and Owino.
UW-Madison previously announced that masking inside campus buildings would no longer be required for vaccinated campus community members. However, they informed students, faculty and staff that as of Aug. 5, the university would be requiring masks for everyone — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — inside UW-Madison spaces and classrooms due to rising concern regarding the Delta variant across the state and country.
“We feel thankful for the mask mandate in place now due to rising COVID cases and a large number of people coming to campus in the fall,” Lampron and Owino said.
Testing — another integral part of the university’s COVID-19 response — is only required for unvaccinated residence hall students, but the university is currently considering expanding this requisite, according to university spokesperson Meredith McGlone.
“As we’ve done throughout the pandemic, the university continues to update its public health protocols in response to the latest developments with COVID-19 locally, in Wisconsin and nationally,” said McGlone, underscoring that the university continues to provide no-cost, on-campus access to both COVID-19 testing and vaccinations for all students and university employees.
UW-Madison strongly encourages student COVID-19 vaccinations while several Big Ten Schools, including the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois, have required them. Other private and public colleges and universities across the state and country have done the same.
“For vaccination, a UW-System-wide approach is most effective and we are prepared to take additional action as appropriate, in coordination with UW-System President Tommy Thompson and other campuses,” said McGlone. She emphasized that the university will adhere to UW-System guidance when asked about University of Minnesota’s recent decision to require vaccination for students upon full FDA approval.
In accordance with the UW-System’s lack of COVID-19 vaccination requirement, Thompson announced a student vaccination incentive for all system schools apart from UW-Madison.
UW campuses that achieve a 70 percent or higher vaccination rate will be eligible for one of 70, $7,000 scholarships in this “70 for 70” campaign. It is unclear whether the UW-Madison administration will be crafting its own COVID-19 vaccination incentive program.
Nonetheless, ASM is currently formulating a student-led vaccine education and promotion campaign intended to provide students with factual information regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations with the goal of promoting safety on campus, Lampron and Owino said.
The #VaccinateUW outreach campaign that ASM, in collaboration with University Health Services (UHS), is developing will encourage students to share their reasons for getting the COVID-19 vaccine, ultimately encouraging their friends and peers to do the same. Debunking common misconceptions and misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine with the backing of UHS’s expertise is also central to the campaign’s efforts in encouraging vaccinations across campus.
Lampron and Owino urge their peers who have not been vaccinated to do so soon in order to protect “our entire campus community.”
Disagreements about the university’s COVID-19 policy are plentiful, according to McGlone.
“We are hearing a wide range of thoughts from students, their parents and families, faculty and staff about the upcoming year,” McGlone said, noting that most up-to-date information and resources regarding university COVID-19 guidelines remain on the COVID-19 response website. “Some disagree with any public health measures; others would like to see more measures put in place.”
ASM leadership hopes the university utilizes input from the campus community more effectively when designing campus-wide COVID-19 guidelines and policies.
“Over the course of the pandemic, administrators have often made important decisions — like when to require testing, hold classes in-person, or allow remote work — without input from staff, faculty and students,” said Lampron and Owino. “This practice disrespected shared governance and must not continue this year.”
“Those who are impacted must have a say in the decision-making processes,” continued Lampron and Owino, highlighting their hope that the university’s willingness to support the #VaccinateUW campaign extends to other instances of shared governance throughout this ASM session, beyond legislation and efforts relating to COVID-19.
Sophia Vento is the Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Cardinal. She previously served as the College News Editor. She has covered breaking campus, city, state and sports news, and written in-depth stories about health, culture and education. Follow her on Twitter at @sophiasvento.