In light of the recently announced requirement by California State University that students must be vaccinated to return to campus, students have been voicing strong opinions on all sides of the issue.
Summer interns from EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps interviewed more than a dozen students from various campuses. Here is what they heard:
By Iman Palm
Gena Faranda, a 28-year-old rising senior at California State University, Long Beach, says the new vaccination rule enacted by the CSU system won’t change her school life much because she is already vaccinated.
Faranda voluntarily chose to take the Moderna vaccine to protect herself and others from the deadly virus, despite concerns she has about potential long-term side effects. She followed her doctor’s advice and encouraged her parents to get vaccinated, too. “We trust our [family] doctor. We individually asked if we should get vaccinated, and we were told we should,” said the ASL linguistics and deaf culture major.
Despite being vaccinated, Faranda remains nervous about attending in-person classes.
“They should require students, staff and faculty to wear face masks on campus,” she said. “Since the delta variant is affecting people who are vaccinated as well, I’ll still be wearing a face mask on campus even if others aren’t.”
By Briana Munoz
After a long year of dealing with virtual learning and a lack of motivation, Presley Shum, a rising senior at San Francisco State University studying communications, says she looks forward to returning to campus with her fellow vaccinated peers.
Shum, 21, decided to get the Covid vaccine in early March after dealing with the daily distress that comes with being a retail worker who interacts closely with customers. “I fully believe in the effectiveness of vaccines,” Shum said. “My only worry with the Covid-19 vaccine is the potential side effects. I don’t get sick very often, so I didn’t want to deal with the potential after-effects people were experiencing.”
Shum said her family members were eager to get their Covid vaccines, with her mother being one of the first in her family to receive it. She says her mother would consistently take her and her siblings to get flu vaccines that were required for public school, so her family didn’t view the Covid-19 vaccine any differently.
She appreciates how SFSU prioritizes student health and safety by listing updated safety protocols and precautionary methods that will be implemented this upcoming semester. She believes the vaccination rule is a part of that safety mindset. “Since more than a fourth of my college career has been taught online, I have realized how much I truly love learning in person and how much I took it for granted,” Shum said. “I am now considering possibly going to graduate school.”
By Mia Alva
Jazmine Menjivar, a rising junior at Cal State University, Los Angeles, is excited to go back to campus this fall as a vaccinated student. After losing a year’s worth of hands-on experience as a TV and film major, Menjivar strongly supports the new CSU vaccination requirement.
“I really do think that we need this requirement to prevent more Covid-19 cases from happening,” Menjivar said. “We already went through one pandemic, and I don’t want to go through another one.”
Menjivar, 20, said she decided to get vaccinated in May because she believes in the value of vaccines and the science behind the Covid-19 vaccine, plus she is motivated to return to campus and a more normal life. She said she expected a vaccine requirement to be enacted sooner or later, given the spread of the more infectious delta variant. She will still wear a mask while in class to be safe and hopes to see an increase in janitorial staff on campus to better ensure cleanliness and safety.
She admits that she would attend in-person classes even if the vaccine wasn’t required. She also said she is tired of people not listening to the facts about Covid-19 and the dangerous threat it poses. After her mother was hospitalized for a different issue recently, Menjivar said she paid better heed to how dangerous and contagious the virus has become. “I was on the floor with all the Covid-19 patients, and nurses were scrambling left and right to care for these patients, and many of these patients were unvaccinated,” she said. “I hope that more people do get vaccinated or be encouraged to get vaccinated just by seeing what I saw in the hospital.”
Benjamin Di Guglielmo
By Mia Alva
Benjamin Di Guglielmo, an incoming freshman at California Polytechnic State University, was so upset with the California State University requirement on vaccines that he founded a student-run social media organization the day of the announcement to oppose it.
“It seemed a bit heavy-handed for the California State University itself to require every single campus to mandate vaccinations rather than leaving it up to the individual campuses,” said the 18-year-old industrial technology and packaging major. In response, he launched CSU for Medical Freedom on Instagram. “There has never been a major Covid-19 outbreak on a campus that has led to a lot of people dying. It hasn’t happened, not even once. So how can they claim that this is worthy of using an emergency vaccine when there’s no emergency here?”
Guglielmo doesn’t believe his organization will stop the mandate from going into effect, so he says his main goal is to urge CSU and all campuses to accept religious vaccination exemptions. “We believe that everybody’s religious, personal and spiritual beliefs are equally valid,” he said. He launched his organization last week. Guglielmo said he has more than 700 supporters and a small group of up 10 volunteers signed up.
Guglielmo said that if he doesn’t receive a vaccination exemption from the university, he will seek a college out of state where vaccinations are not required. “Yes, it is very stressful for me, and it will likely cause great inconvenience in my life. And it might set me back but, I am steadfast in my belief in bodily autonomy.”
By Emily Chung
Shivali Choudhary is anything but shy regarding her approval of the coronavirus vaccination.
“I don’t see any cons of getting vaccinated,” she said. “It’s super healthy, it’s super safe. Everyone should get it if their health allows.”
Originally from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, Choudhary moved to Hayward, California, in 2019 to attend graduate school at California State University, East Bay. After a semester and a half on campus, the pandemic forced her to complete the rest of her program remotely. This May, the 26-year-old graduated with a master’s degree in computer science.
Choudhary now works as a software engineer, but she plans to pursue a Ph.D. next year. Though she was initially worried about returning to campus due to Covid-19, she said the CSU system’s recent decision to require vaccines put her mind at ease. She received the Pfizer vaccine in May.
“I really support the vaccine requirement, so when I found out, I was really happy,” she said. “Even though I want to go to university again, it should be a safe place. It should not be a place where I’m thinking, ‘Maybe I’m not safe here,’ and not being able to concentrate on my studies.”
Anjelica de Leon
By Emily Chung
As president of California State University, East Bay’s Associated Students Inc., senior Anjelica de Leon has long expected a coronavirus vaccine requirement to be implemented at her school.
“I work very closely with our university president, so I already had a feeling that this was going to happen,” the 21-year-old said about the CSU system’s recent vaccine mandate. “Personally, I think it is a really good decision, and it’s the safest decision. I think it’s one of the only ways for us to have a safe and comfortable year.”
During her time in office, de Leon has prioritized amplifying student voices in pandemic-related discussions with the administration. She and the other ASI board members meet with university officials once a month to present student perspectives and concerns.
“ASI’s mission is really to advocate for students,” the sociology major said. “So, for all of the vaccination and masking requirements, we tried to get as much feedback as we could from students and bring that to our president so that she could make a sound decision.”
Without the vaccine mandate, de Leon said she would have been hesitant to return to campus this fall. Although campus-wide vaccination will provide a heightened level of protection, de Leon said she understands the reservations some students and faculty hold toward returning to in-person instruction. “I think that our campus community is trying to acknowledge those concerns, those anxieties, as much as possible,” she said. “They’re still implementing other precautions to make sure that even with the vaccine, we are still safe. We have sanitation stations, we have indoor masking requirements, things like that. So, many students are hoping to come back to campus to feel that sort of connection and to feel the interaction. And the best way and the safest way to do that is to make sure everyone is vaccinated.”
By Taylor Helmes
Makayla Sanders is neither for nor against the Covid-19 vaccine, but after the rising senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills, had a negative reaction to a flu shot when she was a 9-year-old that caused her to be rushed to the hospital, she has been wary about any inoculations she takes.
“As soon as I got the flu shot I started vomiting nonstop, I was weak in the limbs, I couldn’t walk, and for a week I was so dizzy,” Sanders said. “Everything in the room was spinning, so I think I pretty much slept for a whole week, on and off.” Sanders, who otherwise is a healthy 22-year-old woman, has not received a flu shot since that childhood experience.
Now that her university announced it’s requiring all students and staff who will access campus facilities this fall to get the Covid vaccine, she may not have the chance to finish her senior year on campus.
“I was actually planning on going to campus probably once a month because I think one of my classes said they had an option available for us to just do pop-ins, so I was going to do that,” Sanders said. “But if it’s a mandate, I’m not going. That’s basically forcing you to do something. I was frustrated and confused and went through feeling hurt and sadness because I was thinking I might not be able to walk for graduation if the mandate continues into the spring. So I went through a lot of emotions.”
Sanders added: “Before the surge we were doing fine with masks. I feel like they could continue with masks without making this a requirement, and I think it’s wrong for them to make this a mandate only for CSUs and not for private universities. It’s being pushed down my throat.”
By Bella Arnold
Kathryn Grose got vaccinated as soon as she became eligible to receive her Moderna shot. For the rising senior, it was a preemptive measure, as she assumed her campus, California State University, Monterey Bay, would require the vaccination before returning to in-person classes. The 20-year-old also felt it was her duty to protect herself and her peers.
“I feel that getting this vaccine is the bare minimum of what I could do to contribute to a safer environment for myself, my peers and the world at large,” Grose said.
When the computer science student learned that all 23 CSU campuses would require students taking in-person classes to be vaccinated, she felt relieved. Grose and her five roommates have been focused on Covid-19 safety protocols since March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, she has limited herself to essential travel only and regularly donned a mask. However, she admits that there is room for improvement when it comes to her hand-washing.
“On the subject of the vaccines not receiving FDA approval, it seems like just a marketing sticker at this point. We are already seeing the benefits of being vaccinated, and severe reactions are not common in the majority,” Grose said. She also wants to seize the opportunity to be on campus as much as possible, given that a majority of her college education has been remote.
“I was not going to put my education on hold or spend my final year in college at home,” she said. “Everything about my life was affected by the pandemic. My social life was slashed, my worries about being prepared to go into the workforce in a year have escalated, and motivation is at an all-time low.”
By Bella Arnold
Adreanna Broadhead has been able to register for fall classes since May but has yet to finalize her schedule.
Broadhead, 22-year-old senior, was not surprised yet extremely disappointed to learn that San Diego State University would require vaccinations for students taking in-person classes.
For the social sciences major, being unvaccinated is a personal choice. Within her family, she is the most passionate about her aversion to forced vaccination. Some of her family members are vaccinated, while others are not. “I don’t feel comfortable putting something into my body that there isn’t a whole lot of information about at the moment,” Broadhead said. “Even if it was approved, I still don’t think I would get it. I’m not very trusting of our government. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information.”
With only five classes left to take before graduation, Broadhead is at a crossroads. Her remaining classes are only offered in person, but the vaccine requirement and her vaccination status disqualify her from returning to campus.
“I don’t really want to have to go against my beliefs in order to go sit in a classroom on campus. I would prefer to do online classes, but that just isn’t an option right now. I don’t think it’s fair to require the vaccine when there are very limited online options for the upcoming semester.”
By Taylor Helmes
Shayna Sanders believes sacrifices are necessary in order to protect herself and others from contracting a deadly virus. She knows of a half-dozen people who have died due to Covid-19 complications, including her 24-year-old cousin who suffered from an underlying heart condition.
“I saw her three weeks before she went to the hospital. She was perfectly fine, like you would never think that anything was happening,” said Sanders, a 19-year-old rising senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “She was sent to the hospital, and then as soon as she was released from the hospital, her father found her on the floor, face down, dead.”
Sanders, a business administration major, stopped hanging out with friends who did not take the pandemic as seriously. Sanders is vaccinated but says the thought of taking a gap year to be extra cautious has crossed their mind.
“Everybody’s been telling me not to stop going to college because they say once you stop it’s hard to get back into it, so I’m taking that into consideration,” Sanders said. “But if I don’t get a scholarship then I most likely will be taking a gap year to focus on my iPhone repair business.”
They added: “I feel like it is the safest route to make the vaccine somehow mandatory because it’s killing us at a rapid rate and this is a global thing,” Sanders said. “I’m pretty sure nobody thought this was going to happen, but we’re here now, and we have to make the right moves. Too many people are dying, so I completely understood the mandatory vaccines that would be put in place.”
By Bella Arnold
Rae Calandra hated feeling so isolated from college life as a result of forced online learning brought on by the pandemic. She said she feels that getting the Moderna vaccine is her ticket back to in-person classes and normalcy.
The 20-year-old will transfer from Pasadena City College to California State University, Monterey Bay, in the fall, where she will major in social and behavioral sciences with a concentration in anthropology.
At community college, Calandra prided herself on being a high-performing, involved student. When she was forced to adapt to online learning, Calandra watched her grades slip and became depressed. “I have ADHD and dyslexia, so going online was so hard for me. Getting up every day was already hard but having to sit on my computer and stay in my room made everything so much harder, and I ended up failing a lot of my classes.”
Throughout the pandemic, Calandra has been vigilant about being safe. Her father suffers from chronic heart issues, so she knew that bringing home the virus could be catastrophic. “When I hear people saying that the vaccine takes away a lot of their freedom, I think back to the beginning of the pandemic when we were stuck inside with no option at all,” Calandra said. “It really affected me. I lost a lot of friendships because people didn’t agree with the way I wanted to keep myself safe.”
Before the vaccination requirement was announced, Calandra was hesitant about returning to in-person classes, especially since she will need to stay in a dorm room. Had the CSU campuses not required the vaccine, Calandra would have withdrawn from the semester or switched to online courses. “I was definitely having second thoughts,” she said. “I was very adamant that if they didn’t mandate the vaccine, I would not be going back. It really did affect the way I thought about going to school, and I was a bit more comfortable knowing that my roommates had to be vaccinated. I’m not going to risk my life and my family and friends for somebody who, quite frankly, wants to be ignorant.”
Mia Alva is a sophomore at California State University, Los Angeles. Bella Arnold is a sophomore at California State University, Long Beach. Emily Chung is a junior at the University of Southern California. Taylor Helmes is a recent graduate from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Iman Palm is a recent graduate from California State University, Long Beach. Briana Munoz is a recent graduate from California State University, Los Angeles. Each was a fellow with EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps this spring semester.
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.