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26 AUG 2021
1. Even more US universities are expected to require COVID-19 vaccinations as US FDA announces approval of Pfizer vaccine
With the COVID-19 Delta variant on the rise in the US and universities all over the country reopening for the fall semester, the question of whether or not to require students and staff to be inoculated against the coronavirus has grown increasingly urgent at many institutions. Although hundreds of colleges have already announced a vaccine mandate, still many others have avoided requiring vaccinations to avoid seeming “ham-handed and dictatorial” — but with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announcing its full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, the number of universities requiring it is expected to jump.
Crimson’s Take: We know that for many institutions and individuals, the absence of the FDA’s approval has been a primary source of concern in deciding whether or not to get vaccinated. However, we know that without achieving herd immunity in the US and beyond, this pandemic cannot come to an end. As such, we’re hopeful that with the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine, we’ll see a surge in willingness both for individuals to get the shot and for colleges to require it for students and staff planning to live, learn and teach on campus.
2. New report from ACT sheds light on first-year US college students’ online learning experience during the pandemic
According to a report released this week by ACT, the nonprofit organization that distributes the ACT college entrance exam, the shift to remote learning at over 1,300 US universities in the spring of 2020 “disrupted first-year college students’ experiences in almost every facet of their college life.” The report found that two-thirds of first-year students faced academic challenges while learning online, with classes and materials much harder to understand and motivation difficult to muster while learning remotely.
Crimson’s Take: We can’t say we’re surprised by the findings of this report — after all, we work directly with many students whose first year at university was interrupted by the pandemic! Nonetheless we’re saddened to know just how difficult online learning was for so many students, and are especially disheartened by the high degree of concern for the upcoming school year indicated by this study. We’re right there next to our students in hoping that the return to pre-COVID normalcy on college campuses is on the horizon!
3. Doors open at hundreds of US universities despite ongoing uncertainty about how the semester will unfold
With incoming students officially moved into the dorms at many colleges across the US, questions are arising not about whether vaccines and masks will be required, but about how the semester will unfold as COVID-19 cases climb higher and vaccine mandates falter. At Northern Illinois University, officials have defined the metric that will indicate if learning will go online: when (if ever) the positivity rate for COVID-19 reaches 8 percent on campus. Experts think this approach could ripple through the higher education space as colleges try to put more concrete plans in place for the semester. Despite all this uncertainty, one thing is clear: students at US unis overwhelmingly support mask and vaccine mandates if it means avoiding another semester (or year) of remote learning.
Crimson’s Take: In the last 18 months of constant uncertainty, we think it makes a lot of sense for universities to try and identify metrics or thresholds to define if and when they’ll transition to online learning. Of course, we hope that transition won’t be necessary at any point during this school year — but we know that these decisions can seem arbitrary to some and spark frustration among students who so badly want to experience life in classrooms and dorms. We’re waiting with baited breath to see how the new school year unfolds!