NIU students, faculty react to COVID-19 vaccine requirement


Patrick Murphy | Northern Star

Student organizations wait at tables to get students involved with them at NIU’s involvement fair in August 2020.

By Elisa Reamer, News Editor

DeKALB NIU students and faculty have mixed feelings about the university requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students in the fall, along with what the requirement means going forward to return to an in-person academic year. 

NIU announced June 23 that students who live on-campus and are taking in-person classes during the upcoming fall semester are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure a safe semester and decrease the transmission of COVID-19. 

“I definitely agree with it. I think it’s very important now that everyone’s getting together again,” Joseph DiRienzo, senior marketing major, said. “Things are finally opening up; everyone can be together in a safe environment and not have to worry about anything.”

DiRienzo believes that most students will respond positively, but there will be a group that will not be going back and remaining online.

“I have a couple of friends who just plain out don’t want to get it because they’re concerned about what the side effects are,” Madison Peyton, junior psychology major, said. “If you get the vaccine, you get to go to class on-campus and get to be in life at school again, so people who are just flat out refusing to get it are just going to be missing out on all those things.”

NIU will offer a $100 incentive for students who provide proof that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine to encourage more people to receive it. NIU will require an official vaccination card or documentation from a medical provider to be uploaded on “MyNIU” in order for students to attend in-person classes or live on campus. Students can request an exemption for not being vaccinated. 

“We’ve been getting flu shots since we were kids to make sure we’re okay to go to school and everything, but we get a reward for it (COVID-19 vaccine) just because we’re getting it,” Peyton said. “I just think it’s a little weird. We shouldn’t really be getting a reward if we want to be vaccinated and keep other people safe.”

On the other hand, DiRienzo said the $100 incentive is a great motivating factor and will help push more students to receive the vaccine. He said because people have died from COVID-19, it is important to want to push the vaccine right now. 

Peyton will be receiving her second dose of the Moderna vaccine later this month. She got her first dose when she saw other schools requiring their students to receive the vaccine, and she wants to keep others safe. 

Students who live in the residence halls or Northern View are required to receive either the two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or the one dose of Johnson & Johnson before they move into their rooms. Students who do not live in NIU housing but are taking in-person classes should receive the full dose of their vaccines by Friday, Aug. 20,” Freeman said via email sent to students. 

Jenna Dooley, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences instructor, said she is excited to teach in-person again but is worried about how students will readjust to going back on-campus. 

“I think students got used to the luxury of not having to commute,” Dooley said. “I’m curious to see if students will still make it to class on time. I wonder if students will be early and eager, or if they’ll be a couple of minutes late because they may have to relearn how to navigate parking, just getting dressed or getting all their materials in place.” 

Professors will not be provided a list of students who are and aren’t vaccinated, NIU spokesperson Joe King said. 

NIU announced June 11 that they will not require vaccinated individuals to wear a mask due to Illinois entering Phase 5 of the COVID-19 Restore Plan. 

Dooley said masks are still a good idea to prevent other viruses throughout the year. A mask can be a good preventative tool, so she said she would understand why people would continue to wear a mask even if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

NIU will not require employees to receive the vaccine since the majority of the COVID-19 cases were among students, according to the NIU website

“You don’t know what the faculty do when they’re not teaching or anything; it could be going out every night or something else,” Peyton said.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, 907 students tested positive for COVID-19 and 101 employees tested positive, according to the NIU COVID-19 dashboard

“If a student has to get (the vaccine), a teacher’s got to get it because we’re all going to be together in the same room, so I think it’s kind of irrelevant. Both groups need to have it,” DiRienzo said.