SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Two state agencies that oversee higher education in Illinois on Monday encouraged colleges and universities to require COVID-19 vaccinations of students heading to campuses this fall.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board made the recommendation, which they say follows recently released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. The state agencies contend the guidance will help facilitate the safe transition back to campus, as more students return to in-person learning.
The oversight agencies’ recommendation came on the same day a federal judge ruled Indiana University can require its students and employees to get vaccinated before returning to campus for fall classes. Students who don’t comply will have their registration canceled and workers who don’t will lose their jobs.
U.S. District Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend rejected a request from eight IU students who sought to block the requirement while they pursue a lawsuit claiming that the university’s policy violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment.
"We know many things have been difficult during the pandemic," said IBHE executive director Ginger Ostro. "Students should feel confident campuses will be safe when they return and know there are resources available to help them."
Some Illinois schools have already decreed their students must be vaccinated to return to campus. Among them the three campuses of University of Illinois, and Northwestern, DePaul and Loyola universities.
Other schools, including Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University were strongly encouraging but not mandating students be vaccinated.
Lynn Whalen, the chief communications officer at Lincoln Land Community College, told the State Journal-Register in Springfield the school LLCC "strongly encourages" vaccination among its students, faculty and staff, including offering vaccination clinics on campus and educational resources regarding the vaccine.
"Additionally, we will continue to have rapid testing available," Whalen said. "All faculty, staff and students complete a screening process before coming to campus. Those who have not completed the vaccination process are required to wear masks in all LLCC facilities."
ICCB executive director Brian Durham said the guidance issued Monday allows flexibility by community colleges as they consider local context. He added it allows the colleges to fully reopen while also making the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff paramount.
The IBHE and ICCB encouraged schools to continue COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated individuals and they should continue to promote and facilitate health-promoting behaviors such as hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.