Vaccination Rally

Penn State faculty members and other community members attend a rally in favor of university-wide vaccine mandates at Old Main Lawn on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021 in University Park, Pa. The rally was organized by the Coalition for a Just University.

Following a summer of letters and rallies demanding a vaccine mandate at Penn State, the fall semester was ushered in with a “Zoom-In” protest held by faculty members. The protests occurred on the first two days of classes, with approximately 270 people taking part in the event.

Penn State’s faculty is one of the main reasons why the university has garnered such prestigious recognition and, as a result, they have every right to protest how the administration is handling the coronavirus.

The sheer number of faculty that took part in this event speaks volumes in the solidarity and stance professors are taking. And after numerous attempts to plead with the higher-ups, the university continues to neglect what the educators have to say.

As a result of faculty protests, Penn State spokesperson Wyatt Dubois said those involved “may of course be subject to disciplinary sanctions.

With the majority of classes taking place in person, one would think there would be a return to normalcy — but nothing is normal yet. The coronavirus has not been eradicated and with new strains mutating, there will be no way to confidently say we have mitigated past the virus for some time.

With that being said, does it seem logical to not offer hybrid learning? In-person classes shouldn’t be mandated if nothing changed in the past year. While the virtual setting might not be ideal, professors and students were able to adapt to the new format, proving that both parties shouldn’t feel obligated to come in person if they don’t feel comfortable.

For some students, they have been anticipating the return to in-person learning, leading to disappointment in having to go virtual again. If students feel comfortable enough to come into classes, they should have every right to do so.

But those who don’t feel confident with in-person learning should not have to be forced to switch to World Campus. It should be Penn State’s obligation to keep faculty and students healthy and safe.

As professors attempt to do what they can to make learning accessible to all, it only seems fair for the administration to return the favor and show the same amount of effort in helping out the faculty.

Rather than receive help, professors were faced with a possible reprimanding for taking part in the Zoom-In protest.

After two semesters worth of virtual learning, two more days can’t hurt anybody. The merit for punishment seems unnecessary, considering professors have the right to protest and express themselves. They aren’t just educators — they are people — just like the students and administration. They have families and livelihoods outside of the classroom.

The vaccine has become a political issue between the left and right when in reality there should be no debate. In a domino effect fashion, this then leads to it becoming an economic issue for the university. In a letter penned by Penn State President Eric Barron, he made note of “bipartisan support” in regards to funding if the vaccine were to be mandated.

Cutting funds from Penn State as a result of mandating the vaccine doesn’t make any sense. The university is a staple of Pennsylvania and a noted institution worldwide, making it too valuable to punish.

With this being Barron’s final year with the university, he ends his tenure just as he entered — amid a troubling time. Following his time at Florida State, he was brought in on the heels of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, a time period that has cemented his reputation as a university president.

His said reputation could possibly be at stake here as a result of his response to the pandemic. On one hand it seems he’s trying to lay low and keep the university out of the spotlight — a strategy that so far has not been as successful as desired.

But on the other hand, these are tumultuous times without a general consensus on the virus, so there will be differing courses of action depending on the leader.

If trying to appease the majority is Barron’s plan, why not offer multiple options to the Penn State community at the very least? The idea of just knowing there is more than one choice may alleviate the already stressed out faculty and students.

This is beyond a political issue. The well-being of members of the community are at stake, and at the very least, a sense of commitment from the administration will do wonders for all.

Penn State possesses the power to make a decision that benefits the masses and pave the way to a return to normality. Vaccine documents have been required to attend schools long before the coronavirus pandemic. Barron and the administration need to make a commitment sooner rather than later, as the aforementioned prestige of Happy Valley is tarnishing by the day.

Daily Collegian Opinion Editor Joe Eckstein can be reached at jce5179@psu.edu

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