The UConn Board of Trustees met with the public for the first time in person, since 2020, on September 28th, 2022. Their meeting was attended by over 100 people, including the newly elected President. These are the top facts the public should know about UConn’s stance on vaccine mandates, students, faculty, and continued policy revisions:
1. The booster was never mandated and the Covid-19 shot mandate for faculty and staff was lifted in June, 2022.
2. Currently, students are still required to receive the 2 initial shots and the booster by the time they enroll. They were considered “non-compliant” if they did not receive a booster shot.
3. Students who had been accepted for the Fall 2022 semester were not informed of the conditions to their requested exemptions: not being allowed to attend orientation, enroll in courses without completing orientation, use certain facilities, or move on campus. If they were previously dorming on campus, they were removed from campus housing.
4. Out of CT’s 18 public colleges and universities, UConn is the only public university still mandating these shots.
One brave student spoke up about her experience with the Covid-19 mandates.
Phoebe, accepted into UConn at age 16, had begun her dream of pursuing dentistry after a mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico. Back then, she was only 15, but her vision compelled her to dual-enroll in 8 college classes at 4 different Connecticut colleges and universities, to expedite the remaining part of her homeschool education. After graduating high school at 16 and being accepted to UConn just months afterwards, her desire for knowledge only grew. During her freshman year, she completed 3 internships, 1 research fellowship, and was part of 2 scholarly cohorts. Soon, she was a repeat on the Dean’s List, a Babbidge Scholar (top 5% of her college), an Honors Scholar, and she was “enthralled by the journey” to graduating with her bachelors in Biological Sciences on a Pre-Dental Track at just 19 years old.
But her “dreams were shattered” because she made a choice for her body. Phoebe said she was hesitant to accept the Covid-19 shot, a novel genetic therapy, so soon, and with permanent effects on her body.
Her exemption was granted with “surveillance testing recommended”, but weeks after, she received emails with a notice that her student account would be placed on hold due to “non-compliance” to the “mandatory weekly testing”, which she never agreed to. While she hadn’t been able to regularly make it to the testing location because of a class conflict, an opportunity arose during a class cancellation.
To her shock, the writing printed on the test package stated “Innovative DNA Collection Kit… For research use only… Not to be used in diagnostic procedures”. She described her bewilderment to the UConn Board, “I was extremely uncomfortable at the thought of giving my genetic material to research I did not know about… how can I give my consent?”
As both the Covid-19 shots and tests are Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), Phoebe requested an exemption for Covid-19 testing. With supporting legal and scientific evidence from the FDA, CDC, and universal and federal laws, she asked for help to obtain an exemption. Her requests were rejected, ignored – and ultimately denied by the Provost, the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, the Executive Director of Student Health and Wellness, the Director of Clinical Data Analytics & Health Information, and others in administration.
Subsequently, her account was placed on hold and thus she could not register for UConn’s classes. This resulted in dis-enrollment and $23,000 of her merit scholarships vanished. Phoebe described that her hopes and purpose have been “crushed” by the college, and in her comments to the Board, she mentioned others facing the same fate of having their college experience withheld —“I’m not the only one.” Students who refuse the Covid-19 shot cannot complete orientation or move on campus; if they wish to do so they must upload their vaccination papers. Students expressed their frustration and confusion with the maze-like exemption process.
Certified letters and follow up emails regarding the Covid-19 mandates were addressed to the President, Designee Governor Representative, and Board of Trustees, none of whom bothered to respond to the concerns which were brought up.
Phoebe was ostracized and not allowed to continue pursuing her education at UConn to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree; she says she misses being with her classmates and the support from her advisors, mentors, and professors at UConn. At the end of her comments, Phoebe posed the following question to the UConn Board,
“How many more dreams will it take until you turn your ear to our voices? When will you reconsider these mandates and accept these exempted students like any other university students?”
The CTL Tribune reached out to the Uconn Board of Trustees via email; as of publication time, they had not responded.
Stay tuned for more on Phoebe’s experience, and students who have gone through similar ordeals, fighting for their access to higher education.