Graduate workers vaccine mandate

Graduate workers collect signatures on a petition for an indoor mask mandate and a vaccine mandate at WVU on Oct. 22, 2021.

Roughly a dozen WVU students were gathered outside the Mountainlair this past Friday in an organized event promoting more strict COVID-19 safety precautions throughout the University.

This community action group was formed by a number of graduate students and instructors in light of the University’s recent announcements and changes in regards to COVID-19.

“[We want] some more health communication especially,” Mary Elizabeth Koepele said, an English graduate student and instructor at WVU. “It just feels kind of ridiculous that we don’t have really strong, clear and consistent messaging about the vaccine and about COVID.”

“Instead we are getting last minute mask mandates and last minute changes. It just feels like students are kind of confused too.”

One main sentiment shared by many at the event was concern over maintaining and improving the mask mandate.

This follows the University’s latest announcement in which administrators relaxed the indoor mask policy, as it now only applies to classrooms and labs. WVU administrators cited declining infection and hospitalization rates as reasons for the decision.

Vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks in all other indoor areas, as was the case at the beginning of the semester.

Along with these changes, the University lifted its 5-day quarantine policy for students or faculty who travel outside the state

“To me it’s not just about safety, it’s about what message we send to one another as a society if we are not caring for each other,” Karen Klein said, a WVU graduate student and instructor. “We are saving not just ourselves, but we’re saving each other.”

In addition to the gathering, a number of students formed an online petition that is available to both students and non-students to sign. The petition is in favor of a more extensive mask mandate and other health precautions.

“We would like an indoor mask mandate, we would like the University to be clear and concise in its communication on what their policies are and we would like a vaccine mandate,” Liam Wholihan said, a graduate student and school instructor in the poetry program. “It has not been very clear so far.”

“I think the university’s handling of COVID has been very inconsistent, both as a student and as an instructor. I don’t feel like the university has had our interest at heart at all,” Wholihan added.

Recent data shared by WVU’s Public Health Department found that students vaccination rates are hovering around 80% to this point, while nearly 92% of school faculty have gotten their shots.

The University maintains that students who have not been vaccinated must succumb to random testing, as well quarantine for up to 14 days following close contact with anyone who tests positive.

Further information regarding the university’s updated stance on masks and other COVID-19 provisions can be found at the WVU Return to Campus website.

Reporter

Senior at West Virginia University. I am currently majoring in journalism with a minor in sports communication, with the desire to one day cover the world of athletics professionally. I look forward to reporting to my fellow peers here at WVU.