DePaul won’t require students to receive Covid-19 vaccine for fall quarter return despite pressure


Eric Henry

The statue of John J. Egan, located outside of the Lincoln Park Student Center, wearing a mask.

On March 25, Rutgers University released a statement announcing it will require all students enrolled for the 2021 fall semester to receive the Covid-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus. 

“We are committed to health and safety for all members of our community, and adding Covid-19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students,” the statement read. 

At the time of publication, six universities have expressed vaccine requirements for students planning to return in the fall: Rutgers, University of Notre Dame, Brown University, Cornell University, Oakland University in Michigan and St. Edward’s University in Texas. 

Yet DePaul will not require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus. 

DePaul Health Sciences professor Craig Klugman — a bioethicist, medical anthropologist and member of DePaul’s Covid-19 task force told The DePaulia that there are obstacles preventing DePaul from requiring its students to receive the Covid-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus.

“You can’t require something that is impossible to get,” Klugman said. “In Chicago, faculty and staff just became eligible to go hunt for appointments and most students won’t be eligible for several more months. It’s still hard to get a vaccine because there is still very limited production available. DePaul requires only the vaccines that the state requires. So there would need to be a change to state law that would require vaccines for higher education.” 

Despite Klugman’s response, President Biden has urged states to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1. Recently, the president says 90 percent of adults in the U.S. will be able to get the vaccine by April 19.  

According to the CDC, all states require students to be vaccinated against certain communicable diseases as a condition for attendance. However, students may request an exemption from vaccination for medical or religious reasons. 

All students who attend school at an on-campus location at DePaul are required by law to provide proof of immunization against Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Meningococcal conjugate. 

If students fail to do so, if not already exempt, the university is required by law to prevent them from registering for classes. 

Klugman shared with The DePaulia that while Rutgers is one of the universities requiring students to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, it is already facing various lawsuits.   

Children Health Defense Chairman Robert F. Kennedy filed a complaint against Rutgers University on behalf of the CHD since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization products — like the currently available Covid-19 vaccines — are by definition “experimental,” Kennedy wrote in the complaint. 

Kennedy and the Children Health Defense organization, are widely known for their anti-vaccination activism. 

“Under the Nuremberg Code, no one may be coerced to participate in a medical experiment,” Kennedy argued in the complaint. 

During a DePaul Faculty Council meeting on April 7, various council members at DePaul had a side conversation in the Zoom call’s chat channel regarding the university’s vaccine requirements. 

In the conversation, Klugman explained that until vaccines are fully approved by the FDA, it will be difficult for DePaul to require the specific vaccination. 

Mark DeLancey, chair of DePaul’s History of Art and Architecture department, recalled that he was once told that DePaul couldn’t require vaccinations because it was emergency approved. However, Brown’s recent announcement made it seem to him that private institutions had no legal obstacles.

Like Brown and Notre Dame, DePaul is also a private and nonprofit university. 

Klugman explained to faculty members in the meeting that DePaul has met with its medical partners who are willing to administer vaccines. But the city of Chicago is not giving doses to private schools without a medical center attached. 

Chicago-based universities like Loyola University, University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Chicago all have medical centers affiliated with their university and are able to host vaccine clinics for staff, faculty and students depending on the amount of doses allocated. They, too, will not require students to receive the vaccine before returning to campus. 

DePaul Newsline published an article on April 9 stating once again that the university is precluded from hosting a vaccine clinic at this time. 

During a virtual town hall meeting open to the public on April 8, the topic of DePaul’s vaccination plan was brought up several times. 

In the meeting, DePaul’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Eugene Zdziarski, explained that DePaul is weighing a multitude of considerations and that the situation is a “complex issue at this point.” 

Zdziarski also shared that DePaul has had previous conversations with the Illinois Board of Education and the city of Chicago’s health department in regards to hosting a vaccine clinic with its medical partner, Amita Sage Medical Group, for students sometime before fall quarter. 

“DePaul strongly recommends all faculty, staff and students get vaccinated when the opportunity is available to them,” Zdziarski told The DePaulia. “Further, there are strong indications that the large majority of the university community is interested in getting the vaccine. In a recent survey of faculty and staff, 92 percent [of those surveyed] indicated that they had or planned to get vaccinated.” 

During the April 8 town hall, Zdziarski explained that DePaul will allow students who are fully vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine to submit proof of vaccination to the university registrar’s office. Students who do not submit proof of vaccination are encouraged to be tested for Covid-19 if they have recently been around someone who has tested positive. 

Last week, daily Covid-19 cases increased to nearly 500 in Chicago. Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said having 400 or more cases a day equals the threshold for states that get put on Chicago’s emergency travel order list.

DePaul freshman Nya Steward shared with The DePaulia that the absence of a vaccination requirement for Covid-19 makes her concerned about returning to DePaul for in-person learning. 

“We are coming from all over the country, so DePaul could start a breeding ground of Covid-19,” Steward said. “We deserve to have a campus that is as safe as possible.” 

During the April 8 town hall, DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban announced DePaul’s intentions to return to campus in the fall. 

“We’re planning on having the full campus experience that we know so many of you have missed,” Esteban said. 

DePaul’s medical director, Jonathan Maks, shared that he and Zdziarski will continue to have more discussions with DePaul leadership members about vaccinations in order to make sure the return to campus this fall will be as safe as possible.

Zdziarski said that DePaul’s overall plan is to provide as many in-person events on campus as space and health conventions allow.

Additional reporting by Lacey Latch

Update (4/9/2021): This story has been updated to include that the University of Notre Dame is requiring vaccinations for returning students.