Indiana University Students Are Suing Over New COVID Vaccination Requirements

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Indiana University Students Are Suing Over New COVID Vaccination Requirements
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In May of 2021, Indiana University issued a requirement that all students must receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus. Some students took issue with this requirement, resulting in a 55 page lawsuit alleging that the university’s new requirement violated both the U.S. Constitution and the State’s earlier ruling prohibiting the use of “vaccine passports” to indicate or prove a person’s vaccination status. 

Indiana University’s new vaccination mandate applies to both students and faculty.

The university’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement goes so far as to say that students who are not vaccinated by July 1st, 2021 will have their class registrations and even student email accounts canceled. Under this mandate, students who do not receive the vaccination will not be allowed to participate in any school-sanctioned activity. This mandate also applies to staff and faculty as well, stating that anyone employed by the university who does not receive a vaccine will not be allowed to teach their scheduled courses and can be terminated.

Students in the lawsuit argue that this new vaccine mandate violates Fourteenth Amendment Rights and existing state legislation.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals with a variety of civil rights, including the right to bodily autonomy and integrity; in other words, the idea that people should be allowed to choose to reject or accept medical treatment. The students responsible for this lawsuit argue that the university’s new vaccine requirement violates this right, and additionally goes directly against Indiana’s vaccine passport law. This law was designed to prevent state and local powers from requiring or issuing vaccine passports. Vaccine passports are a hot-button topic as political powers in different states take opposing stances on the issue; while some believe that vaccine passports can encourage vaccinations and protect people from those who are unvaccinated, others believe that denying the same opportunities to unvaccinated people as vaccinated people is unconstitutional by nature.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled to allow vaccine requirements.

In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled that universities are allowed to require their students to receive certain vaccines. This precedent might at first seem to weaken the students’ case; however, it’s important to note that the COVID-19 vaccine is only authorized for emergency use due to the pandemic, and as hospitalization rates are dropping, a court may or may not support the idea of a university-wide vaccine requirement. 

Additionally, the university’s mandate is particularly sweeping, even preventing students who do not receive the vaccine to attend classes virtually from home, or for faculty to teach from home, so it is quite possible that the university will be forced to adjust if not drop the mandate entirely.

The results of this lawsuit will likely set an important precedent for other institutions and universities considering a vaccination mandate well into the future.

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