Wisconsin Universities Considering Vaccine Requirements

Marquette University is now the third private institution in Wisconsin to announce it will require students to be vaccinated, while the University of Wisconsin in Madison is considering a requirement for dorm residents.

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(TNS) — Wisconsin's largest private university will require its 11,500 students to get a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 1 to attend classes this fall.

Marquette University's announcement Monday makes it the third private institution in the state to impose a vaccine mandate as the University of Wisconsin System continues its stance of encouraging but not requiring vaccination.

One potential outlier: UW-Madison is considering a vaccine requirement for students living in the dorms.

That idea was publicly floated back in early April, and Matt Mayrl, chief of staff for Chancellor Rebecca Blank, told a faculty committee on Monday that the university was still actively exploring it as an option.

Regardless of what UW-Madison officials decide, Blank told the committee she expects a high student vaccination rate and is aiming for 85-90 percent.

More than 40,000 students and employees so far have been vaccinated on campus or through another provider, according to the university's COVID-19 dashboard.

How close other UW campuses are to reaching some level of herd immunity is unknown. It's not a data point currently tracked by every school.

If and how campuses should measure vaccination rates is under discussion, System spokesperson Mark Pitsch said.

Interim System President Tommy Thompson at a UW Board of Regents meeting last week said he has temporarily hired former student Regent Olivia Woodmansee to visit UW campuses as part of an effort to push each campus' vaccination rate toward 70 percent.

Vaccine mandates have become a politically fraught issue for colleges, especially public institutions in red states.

Just last week, Republicans held a hearing on a bill that would ban UW campuses and state technical colleges from requiring vaccines or mandating testing as a condition of being on campus.

Nearly 500 U.S. institutions to date have announced requirements for some form of vaccination on campus, including at least five of the 14 Big Ten schools.

Marquette's mandate doesn't include staff, though the university is "strongly encouraging" employees to get the shot. Students can request an exemption for medical, ideological or religious reasons but will then be required to get tested for COVID-19 throughout the semester.

"A vaccinated student population will allow us to provide you with a richer in-person experience, reduce testing and let you interact more freely across campus," President Michael Lovell said in a Monday message to students.

©2021 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.