Philly area universities offer incentives and sanctions around COVID-19 protocols



Jordyn Locks couldn’t believe the call she got from an administrator at Rider University: Year two won a full year of free tuition, worth over $ 46,000, just for getting been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I thought, ‘What? This must be a joke, ”said exercise scientist Bear, in the Del. “When I submitted my vaccination card, I didn’t even know it was one thing. “

Locks was one of three students out of a potential pool of around 2,700 to earn the honor as part of a University of New Jersey incentive program to encourage students to get vaccinated before the start of the school year.

While universities are grappling with how to keep a generally invincible population safe and in person, other schools in the area have also dangled carrots – albeit less exciting. Pennsylvania State University donated designs with cash prizes, gift cards and footballs autographed by coach James Franklin. The University of West Chester offered a chance to get scholarships. Nationally, motivation has included everything from laptops, photoshoots, concert tickets, and free parking to pizza and therapy dogs.

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As the school year continues, universities the stick: Penn State recently placed more than 100 students at its University Park campus on temporary suspension for failing to present for required COVID-19 tests after their had not presented proof of vaccination.

West Chester has provisionally suspended housing for 39 students who failed to show up for tests. West Chester is one of 14 state universities that do not require the vaccine, but West Chester requires unvaccinated students living in dorms to take random tests.

“They are no longer allowed to reside on campus until they test and submit their results,” said Nancy Santos Gainer, spokesperson for West Chester.

Other colleges are threatening to take similar action, including preventing students from registering for spring classes and gaining access to campus buildings. Drexel University said students who aren’t exempt and don’t get the vaccine – which the university has demanded and Philadelphia mandated for students and staff by Oct. 15 – could also face to other disciplinary measures, including dismissal, spokesman Niki Gianakaris said. .

Vaccination rates are already very high in Drexel, with around 96% of students and staff vaccinated, with more underway as the school completes its second week of classes. Less than 2% of students and 1% of employees received exemptions, Gianakaris said.

Across the region, immunization rates vary, with many schools that required the vaccine having more than 90% of students and staff immunized, and those that did not do less. In West Chester, 66% of students taking in-person classes and 62% of employees provided proof of vaccination, Gainer said. At Penn State, which doesn’t require it, 81% of staff and 87% of students are vaccinated, but in dorms it’s over 90%.

“I think we come to the same place without using the word mandate,” said Damon Sims, vice president of student affairs at Penn State.

So far, none of the local campuses have had to revert to distance education for the semester, and some campuses where there were worrying outbreaks of cases earlier in September, including Villanova and the room, seem to have stabilized.

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In Villanova, where 95% of pupils are vaccinated, active cases have fallen to 13 Friday after a slight increase last month, which caused the university to toughen some measures. Villanova, which demands the vaccine and also imposes twice-weekly surveillance tests for students and unvaccinated employees, and randomized tests for those vaccinated, did not have to resort to disciplinary action, the door said. -says Jonathan Gust. If a student or employee misses a test, they get a reminder and then a warning email, he said.

Temple University sends multiple emails to non-compliant students and then denies them access to campus buildings, spokesman Steve Orbanek said. If they still fail to get tested, they are referred to the student conduct bureau, he said.

In Temple, 96% of the 2,584 students who are due to take the tests have complied, he said. About 86% of students and staff are fully immunized.

Penn State announced the provisional suspension of non-compliant students on September 21. At the start of last week, about half of the students had shown up for tests or been vaccinated or had already been vaccinated and just needed to upload their information, Sims said. They were removed from the suspension.

None of the students lived in the halls of residence, but they were excluded from classes, college activities including football matches, and campus facilities, he said.

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The suspensions only came after students missed three weeks of testing and the university called, emailed and, in residences, even knocked on students’ doors, he said. he declares. Ten student affairs staff ran a telephone bank, Sims said. These efforts made it possible to avoid suspensions for several hundred students.

“We want as many people as possible to be vaccinated,” he said. “We hope most are ready to do it. We also want them to upload the data proving that they are vaccinated so that we know that. “

About 55 students remained on interim suspension Wednesday, Sims said. More students, however, could be added each week if they don’t comply, he said. While all of the suspensions took place at the 48,000-student campus at University Park, Sims said other Penn State campuses were preparing to take similar action if necessary.

The Coalition for a Just University, a group of largely academic professors who criticized Penn State’s response to COVID-19, would instead have seen the university mandate the vaccine, said Gary King, professor of biobehavioral health at University Park. and a spokesperson for the coalition.

“Some of the actions they take are the result of actions they haven’t taken,” he said.

At Rider, administrators announced free tuition on July 29. The university had previously said all students without medical or religious exemptions should be vaccinated by the fall semester, but only 65% ​​had uploaded their vaccination card.

On August 5, the percentage rose to 85, said Drew Aromando, vice president of registration management.

“It is difficult to assess whether [the tuition incentive] was exclusively the reason, ”he said. “There were a number of things we were doing to try and move the needle.”

But it certainly helped, he said.

All students were eligible except those who were already receiving free classes and those who took all classes online. A winner was chosen at random from each entry category: traditional undergraduate, graduate and continuing education for students of non-traditional age. The winners received tuition fees, less any other institutional aids or scholarships they already had, Aromando said.

Locks said for her that the win was worth around $ 19,000. Between her work on campus as a resident counselor and free tuition, she said college would cost her nothing this year. Last fall, her first at Rider, vaccines weren’t available yet and all of her classes were on Zoom.

“It’s so much better this year,” she said. “I can finally wake up and walk to class and see other students.”

Aromando said 96% of students are fully immunized and the remaining 4% have approved exemptions and must undergo weekly tests. Since the start of the semester, Rider has had 17 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff as of September 24, according to his dashboard.

Locks said she was vaccinated before Rider announced the incitement. Even though the vaccine was not needed, she said she would have received it.

“If I can do my part and slightly change the world with my little impact,” she said, “it will make me feel better. “



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