25 signatures reached
To: TCBES Students
TCBES: Tell UH Hilo Admins that Students want COVID-19 Vaccines to be mandatory for our coursework!
To Dean Jim Mike and Vice Chancellor Kris Roney at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, in response to the University’s policy towards COVID-19 vaccinations:
As many of my cohort agree, one of the strongest draws of the TCBES program is the opportunity to conduct collaborative fieldwork in the incredibly diverse biomes of Hawai’i. The importance of field experience, technical and interpersonal skills, and collaborative problem-solving for success in the field of conservation is demonstrable (Blickley et al. 2012), and many of our TCBES classes are built around small group collaboration and applied field work. Realistically, this means sharing vehicle space and collaborating in spaces where it is difficult to enforce proper social distancing and other safety measures. As of now, TCBES students are meeting in-person for labs, and we are relying on weekly negative COVID PCR tests to keep us safe from exposure. Many of our number, however, are worried: some of us have elderly or otherwise vulnerable family members that require our care and attention, and I myself am immunocompromised. This puts us in a difficult position: every time we meet in-person without the assured safeguard of the vaccine amongst our peers, we are risking the health and safety of ourselves, our roommates, our friends and our loved ones.
I feel that it is necessary to acknowledge another perspective here: there are many communities that distrust the vaccine and the government that is providing it. Consider the weaponization of smallpox against Native American and First Nations communities during the European colonization of North and South America, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Project MKULTRA, and many more; there is a legacy of trauma that has been inflicted predominately against minorities in the United States throughout its history, and I think it is important to keep this in mind when considering the implementation of measures that concern bodily autonomy.
COVID-19, however, is an unprecedented public health crisis, and it has claimed more than 682,295 lives in the United States alone since February 1st, 2020 according to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/mortality-overview.htm) And now, thanks to the work of thousands of dedicated individuals around the world, we have a safe, effective vaccine that has been thoroughly tested and fully approved by the FDA. Now that the FDA has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine, universities across the United States are now able to require vaccination for all students and staff, just as they tend to require Hep C and TDAP vaccines for enrollment. COVID vaccine requirements have already been implemented at The Ohio State University, one of the largest academic institutions in the country. https://safeandhealthy.osu.edu/covid-19-vaccine-requirement If such a policy can be implemented at an institution with over 60,000 students, it could surely be considered for the field courses at UH Hilo.
I cannot speak for all TCBES students; we come from diverse backgrounds, and we were all brought here by our own interests, passions, and circumstances. I can, however, attempt to consolidate the opinions of my peers in this petition. So please, Dean Mike, hear us: we are here at UH Hilo to learn and grow as field ecologists, as conservationists and collaborative researchers, and we deserve to know that ourselves and our loved ones are adequately protected while we do so. Please allow TCBES to require the COVID-19 vaccine for participation in in-person coursework, for the sake of our community’s health and safety.
Why is this important?
As TCBES students, collaboration and field work are critical to our studies and our future success. In order to get the most out of this program, we need to be able to engage fully in our coursework without sacrificing the safety of ourselves, our mentors, and our loved ones.