Two weeks ago, DePaul University announced that it would be requiring students to be vaccinated before returning to campus for the 2021-2022 school year. In order to facilitate student vaccinations before the start of the Fall Quarter, the university has partnered with Michigan Avenue Immediate Care to offer a series of free vaccine clinics on campus.
Between April 27 and April 30 of last week, the university hosted its first clinic at the Lincoln Park Student Center. At that clinic, health care workers administered the first dose of the Moderna vaccine to students, faculty and staff.
According to clinic organizers, appointments were fully booked almost immediately, with close to 500 vaccines being given over the course of four days.
While at the clinic 14 East and other members of student media were able to ask university officials questions about the upcoming Fall Quarter and gather insight regarding the administration’s recent announcements. Here’s what we learned.
Will there be a campus-wide mask mandate for the Fall Quarter? What about other health and safety guidelines?
Summary: Health and safety guidelines for the Fall Quarter remain unknown.
In a statement released Tuesday, the university announced that it will continue to require both non-vaccinated and fully vaccinated people to wear a mask on campus, maintain physical distance and use the #CampusClear app.
Even so, many members of the DePaul community have asked whether these health and safety measures will remain in place for the coming school year.
Cheryl Hover, the associate director of emergency management at DePaul, said the university has not yet solidified any decisions regarding other health and safety guidelines for the Fall Quarter.
“It really depends on what the CDC is saying, what the Chicago Department of Public Health is saying,” said Hover. “We of course hope at some point we won’t be wearing masks, we won’t be social distancing. It’s very possible that’s happening in the Fall, but we also might be at the point where we’re not doing those things.”
Will DePaul be hosting more vaccine clinics?
Summary: There may be more clinics on campus in the summer.
University officials said there is the potential for more clinics to be hosted on campus over the summer. However, no official decisions have been made.
“It’s definitely under discussion, of course we don’t have those dates or details worked out yet,” explained Hover. “Especially for any international students coming in, anyone who can’t get the vaccine where they are right now. That’s definitely a big motivation to do something perhaps in August.”
Hover says much of that decision is contingent upon the volume of requests and demand from the community.
“It depends on what the demand is and in terms of volume, but definitely something we’ve been talking about and hope we can plan.”
For now, DePaul has a second clinic planned for May 25 through May 28 so students can get their final dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Will faculty and staff also be required to be vaccinated?
Summary: No, faculty and staff are not currently required to be vaccinated.
Though DePaul will require students to get vaccinated before the start of the Fall Quarter, university officials said that requirement has not yet been extended to faculty and staff.
Hover, however, does encourage all members of the DePaul community to get vaccinated if possible.
“Now we have a vaccine that we know is safe and we would encourage everyone to get it. If you need a little time to do that, take the Spring, take the Summer, but please do get the vaccine if you are able.”
Moreover, at a Faculty Council meeting on Wednesday, councilmembers voted to send a statement to the university administration urging them to extend vaccination requirements to DePaul faculty and staff.
“We strongly and unambiguously speak in favor of a vaccine mandate as it supports the well-being of the faculty, staff, students, and Chicagoans,” the statement read. “DePaul must require vaccines of all faculty, staff, and students for the Fall Quarter.”
The vote passed with 30 in favor, two opposed, and one abstained.
In an emailed statement, Kelly Kessler, the secretary of Faculty Council, wrote about the decision, stating, “I think the numbers speak for themselves.”
Jay Baglia, the chair of the DePaul Health Committee on the Faculty Council, co-wrote the approved statement. He says a vaccine mandate is essential to the health and safety of the DePaul community.
“One of the first things that we discussed was the fact that this mandate should go to [the] Faculty Council independent of the status of students, because we also believe strongly that, in order to have a safe campus environment, faculty and staff must also be vaccinated.”
Baglia says the statement will now go to Interim Provost Salma Ghanem’s office for consideration.
For a follow-up on the Faculty Council’s decision, check out 14 East’s newsletter on Monday.
Will booster shots be required?
Summary: Boosters may be required depending on guidance from the CDC and other public health bodies.
As recent studies have emerged about the efficacy of booster shots in fighting COVID-19 variants, some students wonder what instruction DePaul will provide in regard to these supplemental shots.
Hover says the university has not yet established clear guidance in regard to booster shots. She says it’s too early to make those decisions as new information from the CDC and vaccine manufacturers is released on a daily basis.
“There’s been some news recently on [boosters]. Of course, we don’t have those details yet,” said Hover. “We would follow those guidelines [from the manufacturer]. If they’re saying every year you need it, then of course that’s what we’re going to be following.”
DePaul originally said vaccines wouldn’t be required for the Fall Quarter. Why the change?
Summary: University officials first announced the vaccine would not be required for the Fall because of a lack of availability.
Hover clarified DePaul’s initial decision not to require students to be vaccinated for the Fall Quarter. She said this earlier decision was motivated by the lack of vaccine availability in Chicago at the time.
“A big part of when there was discussion[s] of ‘Is this going to be required for students?’ was availability,” said Hover. “We were having a very difficult time saying this is required but you can’t even get it right now.”
Hover went on to say that this lack of availability was partially what motivated her and other officials to organize a clinic on campus. She said the university felt compelled that if they were going to put a requirement in place, they needed to make the vaccine more directly accessible to students.
“[We] wanted to make sure that if we were going to put a requirement in place, students need to be able to get that vaccine. So that was number one … Then also we wanted to break down any kind of barriers that there were to getting a vaccine for our students.”
Header image by Yusra Shah