EDITORIAL: College students, step up and get the vaccine

·3 min read

Jun. 10—The team project has been the bane of many an educational institution.

There are the ones who have done the reading, come up with a plan and broken it all out into a series of tasks. There are the ones who will do what they are told. And there are the ones who are just going to be a name on the finished project, with little to no involvement in what actually gets done.

This is why no one — except possibly the odd slacker who picks up a stray A in an otherwise D- academic career — actually likes group projects. There are too many variables, too much dependence on other people. Too much opportunity for someone else's lack of commitment to affect the final product.

And college students might now be heading into the ultimate group project. After a 2020-21 school year that has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, students are being asked to work together on something new. Vaccination.

Some schools, including Carnegie Mellon, Chatham and Duquesne, are requiring students get their shots before showing up on campus in the fall. Others, such as Carlow, are encouraging them strongly, but only demanding them for athletes and residential students, both groups who would have more close contact.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education colleges (which include Indiana, California, Slippery Rock, Clarion and Edinboro) cannot legally require vaccines. State law only allows that requirement for meningitis, and the state legislature does not appear to be up for changing that.

But that leaves others — including Penn State, the largest university in Pennsylvania — floundering somewhere between insisting and shrugging. Like the students who do what they're told in a group project, they are finding a way to get the job done without drawing the attention of a demand.

Penn State is doing it the same way states like Ohio and Maryland are: bribery. Nittany Lions who get their shots can enter a weekly drawing for cash prizes, gift cards and more. Saint Vincent College is using the promise of normality for the vaccinated who return, while those who don't get it have to maintain masking and social distancing.

The University of Pittsburgh, Seton Hill and Point Park are still on the fence about what the official policies will be.

Those policies, however, are less important than the recommendations.

As with a group project assignment, the schools should be laying the vaccine information out there with the rubric that will measure success. It is best to get the vaccine if you are medically able to do so — best for the student, their friends and family, their classmates and faculty and support staff.

But just like different schools or different professors may grade more harshly or easily, ultimately, it will be up to the students to choose their degree of participation. Some may be motivated by the science — not a bad thing in a college student — or by the incentives.

And some may choose to let the group reward — an end to the pandemic — rest on other people's work.

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