Penn State won't require COVID-19 vaccine for students

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Connor McNally, right, of Oceanside, New York, right, gets help carrying boxes Sunday as he moves into the Nittany Apartments on the campus of Penn State Schuylkill in Schuylkill Haven. Students start in-person classes this week under the banner of a “Mask Up or Pack Up” campaign.

Penn State University President Eric Barron announced that the university would not require the COVID-19 vaccine for students at the start of the fall semester. 

In an online letter, Barron said students will be asked to share proof of their vaccination status, but will not be required to receive the vaccine. If a student doesn't share proof of their status, they will be tested weekly for COVID-19. He said students will risk suspension if they repeatedly refuse to comply with testing. 

Earlier this month, Penn State officials announced the university would require masks for all students and staff, regardless of their vaccination status. This hanged the university's previous policy to only require masks for unvaccinated individuals.

Barron said the decision was controversial. A student petition opposing the mandate garnered more than 1,000 signatures in its first day, but many staff members expressed support in making masks and vaccines a requirement, he said. 

The announcement confirms that Penn State York's COVID-19 policies will largely mirror York College's. Earlier in the summer, York College officials said the college will require masking indoors until its campus population reaches a 70% vaccination rate. The college will not mandate the vaccine, but students are required to submit proof of their vaccination status before returning to campus. 

More:York College to require universal masking indoors, Penn State's mask policy is still up for debate

More:COVID-19 pandemic leads to drops in enrollment at York-area colleges

In his letter, Barron expressed concern over how the politicization of pandemic responses might impact Penn State. State funding for the university depends on bipartisan support as it requires a two-thirds vote from the state legislature, he said. 

"Regulations across the country clearly reflect state-level political realities," Barron said in the letter.

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