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Hillsdale College does not have vaccine require­ments or weekly testing Courtesy | Carmel Kookogey

For COVID-19, college cam­puses are the perfect petri dish, said Francis Steiner, pro­fessor of biology at Hillsdale College. While Hillsdale College has 16 stu­dents in iso­lation as of Monday morning, other Michigan uni­ver­sities are adapting to the spread of the omicron variant in dif­ferent ways.

“Anytime you put stu­dents inside some kind of a close living space, that’s pretty much the great equalizer, depending on whether you’re talking about a pop­u­lation that’s 40,000 stu­dents or 1,500 stu­dents,” Steiner said.

The col­leges have adjusted leg­is­lation based upon their various needs, though a common denom­i­nator appears to be vaccine require­ments and testing.

“Besides the absence of lock­downs, masking require­ments are more lenient but are still required indoors,” said Shad Soldano, a public health graduate student at Uni­versity of Michigan-Ann Arbor. “This year, the uni­versity did mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, including the man­dated booster.”

Among their student body of nearly 50,000 people, there were only 596 active cases as of Jan. 1, according to the Uni­versity of Michigan’s Campus Blue­print website. Due to similar numbers, other schools, such as Oakland Uni­versity, Wayne State Uni­versity, and Michigan State Uni­versity, have announced that their first few weeks of the semester will be online.

“Being a student at the School of Public Health, you espe­cially under­stand the impacts that the COVID-19 virus has on our healthcare system,” Soldano said. “If you don’t want to get sick from COVID-19, the booster does help, and there are argu­ments that being vac­ci­nated lowers the chance of the virus mutating into some­thing worse.”

Uni­versity of Michigan-Dearborn has similar require­ments to Ann Arbor. 

“I feel that these require­ments and man­dates are jus­tified for their pur­poses to achieve the uni­ver­sity’s goals of pro­viding in-person classes while keeping stu­dents safe,” engi­neering student Jeremiah Loewen said. “The man­dates do incon­ve­nience me, and it could be argued that their man­dates infringe on my rights, but I made the con­scious decision to go to this college.”

As an unvac­ci­nated student, Loewen said he feels equally treated, though his college expe­rience requires extra precautions.

“The process for requesting an exemption at first seemed like it wouldn’t be taken seri­ously and was stressful because of that,” Loewen said, “However, I wasn’t given any grief about my request and was granted the request rea­sonably soon after I sub­mitted it. Cur­rently, I only need to get tested weekly to replace the vaccine mandate.”

Soldano, however, had a dif­ferent expe­rience in Ann Arbor. 

“I know somebody that is unvac­ci­nated and still got COVID-19,” he said.“The unvac­ci­nated are required to get tested weekly, but this indi­vidual decided to isolate for the week, therefore missing his weekly COVID-19 test.”

Soldano said the uni­versity placed a hold on his account due to his failure to comply with the weekly testing, incon­ve­niencing the indi­vidual during class registration.

“He was sick and decided to stay home to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others, and he was unfairly treated due to his unvac­ci­nated status,” Soldano said. “I believe the uni­versity should con­sider these cir­cum­stances into their COVID-19 response to best support all stu­dents, whether vac­ci­nated or not.”

Soldano said he will not allow COVID-19 to lower his quality of life. 

“At this point, COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, as we have to get used to living with the virus,” he said. “I don’t live in fear anymore, and I hope it stays that way.”