CSU Students, Faculty Concerned Over Lack Of Universal Vaccine Mandate

The CSU seal on the side of a building.
Masks are required inside buildings, and students living on campus must be vaccinated, but CSU will not mandate all students and staff be vaccinated. [Annie Wu / Ideastream Public Media]

Cleveland State University is not mandating vaccines for all students, faculty or staff, opting instead for an education campaign starting Tuesday meant to encourage vaccination. 

That decision has caused concern for some students, parents and faculty who worry about the ongoing coronavirus surge across Ohio. Graduate student Megan Cantrell only has one class on campus, she said, but she regrets signing up for it because she doesn’t feel safe.

“That day that I have to go to campus, I’m honestly in a panic attack from the moment I wake up until, usually, the next day,” Cantrell said. “When you’re in your final year, the last thing you want to do is delay. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. But now I kind of regret it.”

Students living on campus must be vaccinated, and masks are required inside buildings -- mandates the school issued earlier. The plan will be reevaluated on Oct. 19, according to Dr. Forrest Faison, the school’s chief of health strategy.

Cantrell said she is hypervigilant about staying healthy during the pandemic because she is immunocompromised. She wishes school was virtual because worrying about staying healthy and wearing masks and maintaining social distance have interfered with her ability to focus on what she’s supposed to be learning.

“Why do we need to be in person? None of it makes sense to me,” Cantrell said. “I think CSU has an obligation as an urban university to take all the necessary precautions to protect the community, and right now it seems like they’re putting profits over public health.”

Cantrell thinks the university should put a vaccine mandate in place or allow students to attend all of their classes remotely.

“We’re all congregating and pretending that the vaccine is going to save us from all these new variants. I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe than everybody else right now,” Cantrell said.

Two of Melissa McCreight's children are attending CSU, one junior and one freshman. Remote learning last year was a struggle, she said. While they’re excited to be back on campus, McCreight said she doesn’t understand why the university has not put a mandate in place when other schools in the state have. 

“Frankly, they became a symbol in that fight against COVID. Our entire family went to the Wolstein Center to get the vaccines,” McCreight said. “I feel like their decision not to mandate the vaccines is counterintuitive.” 

She said requiring the vaccine is just common sense, especially on a campus where a significant number of students are commuting from homes around the Greater Cleveland area. Her children commute from Euclid.

“Cleveland State being such a commuter school, this decision affects a much larger community than a campus of students who live on campus,” McCreight said.

Some faculty and students argue more conversations with staff and students is needed to determine how to make everyone feel safe.

“I’m not clear on the extent that staff and students were consulted,” said Associate Professor Megan Hatch. “I’d like to see more of that.”

Hatch said she appreciates the mask mandate, but believes it should be in combination with social distancing and vaccines to provide the most protection from COVID-19. She and some other faculty members want to see more from the university.

“I think there is concern," she said. "I think there is the concern that exists in the general population of trying to do what’s best for everyone."

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