ASU students react to Ducey’s order blocking mask and vaccination policies

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(Video by Peyton Watts/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order barring the state’s public universities and community colleges from requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine or submit their vaccination records is being met with mixed reviews by some ASU students and staff.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated ASU’s guidance to students in the fall. University officials told students there was an expectation all students would be vaccinated. Find the full correction here.

Ducey’s order on Tuesday came a day after Arizona State University emailed students stating the university has an expectation that “all students enrolled in an on-campus academic program for 2021-22 will be vaccinated.” The email sent Monday from Joanne Vogel, vice president of Student Services, said students who “are unable to be vaccinated for any reason or who do not agree to share their vaccination status will be required to participate in ongoing COVID-19 health management protocols,” including testing.

Students who choose not to get vaccinated or refuse to share records, the email said, must continue wearing masks, submit daily health checks and participate in COVID-19 testing twice a week.

Ducey criticized ASU’s policy in a tweet, saying that unvaccinated students will not be required to wear masks or undergo weekly testing to attend classes.

“The vaccine works, and we encourage Arizonans to take it. But it is a choice and we need to keep it that way,” Ducey said in a news release. “Public education is a public right, and taxpayers are paying for it. We need to make our public universities available for students to return to learning. They have already missed out on too much learning. From K-12 to higher education, Arizona is supporting in-person learning.”

But not everyone is happy with the order. Some ASU students and staff are concerned about the health of other students, and the potential for more cases of COVID-19 on campus.

Katie Paquet, media relations and strategic communications administrator for the university, said students never were required to be vaccinated.

“We have been consistent in our views on the vaccine, and our expectations that students get it,” Paquet said. “But it was never a requirement. We know the vaccine works. There’s science to back that up. We communicated our expectations and hoped that students would take advantage of it.”

Paquet said ASU will do its best to provide resources for vaccinated and unvaccinated students that work within the parameters of the executive order.

However, several former and current students who spoke to Cronkite News criticized Ducey’s order.

“I think he is confused about the fact that ASU is not implementing a vaccine mandate, like at all,” said Gideon Kariuki, a junior. “There are people on campus, our friends, neighbors, co-workers, who are immunocompromised, who would be put more at risk if these extra measures for unvaccinated students were taken away. His order does away with the idea that we live in a society where we are responsible for each other.”

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Ranjani Venkatakrishnan, a recent ASU graduate, expressed more confusion than concern.

“Even though they didn’t force anyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, mandating vaccines is not a new thing for ASU,” Venkatakrishnan said. “We have to have our MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccines to even be able to attend school. Since vaccines aren’t mandated, Ducey should at least let ASU mandate testing so that people aren’t spreading it across campus.”

Gannon Hanevold, a junior at ASU, expressed similar concerns for students who have chosen to get vaccinated.

“Ultimately, this vaccination encouragement by the school is all about peace of mind, and this totally rids that peace from students,” he said. “I felt really good about ASU’s plan for the fall. Bringing back in-person classes but maintaining precautions and encouraging vaccination is really the best you can do with this situation to stay safe and still offer a quality education.

“Ducey’s order crushed that plan.”

The governor’s order comes as COVID-19 cases in Arizona continue to decline. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 436 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday. To date, 48% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated.

ASU plans to issue a new policy in the coming days that will work within the governor’s executive order, as well as keeping its students and staff safe.

Cronkite News reporter Peyton Watts contributed to this story.

Rithwik Kalale rith-wick kuh-lah-lay (he/him)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Rithwik Kalale expects to graduate in August 2023 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Kalale has reported in audio and digital formats for Real Vision, KJZZ, TARO Magazine and Arizona PBS.

Peyton Christiaan Watts p-AI-t-UH-n watts (he/him)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Peyton Watts expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in business. Watts is participating in Cronkite News and has worked for the State Press.