Indiana Attorney General attacks IU’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 10:50 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita called Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students and staff illegal, citing a new state law that banned government entities from requiring people to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

“Indiana University’s policy clearly runs afoul of state law—and the fundamental liberties and freedoms this legislation was designed to protect,” Rokita said in a statement.

Indiana University joined the growing list of colleges that will require students and faculty to receive the COVID-19 shot before setting foot on campus in the Fall.

IU officials wrote in a statement, “Knowing that the vast majority of the IU community is vaccinated is the only way the university can confidently return to in-person classes, more in-person events and a more typical university experience.”

IU Southeast student, Julie Faulds wrote to WAVE 3 that she supports the new policy.

“As a student, that reinforces that I made the right choice for my education,” she said.

However, many IU students and parents took to social media to express their concerns and frustrations about the new policy, calling it “unconstitutional,” and a violation of “my rights.”

WAVE 3 News asked Mitch Denham, an attorney at DBL Law, his legal opinion.

“I believe (the AG) is correct,” Denham said.

Since IU receives funding from the state, the school is considered an arm of the government, according to Denham; the university must abide by the new state law.

While this means IU is legally prohibited from requiring its students and staff to show proof of their vaccination status, the law does not prevent the university from requiring the vaccine itself.

Denham told WAVE 3 News there are other ways IU can ensure students and staff are honest about their vaccination status without requiring them to show their COVID-19 vaccine card, which is what the current policy requires.

“For example, they could require a student or a faculty member to submit an affidavit or an attestation that states that they are and have been vaccinated by one of the three FDA emergency approved vaccines,” Denham said. “That could be a condition of their employment, that could be a condition of them being back on campus, or whatever other reasonable and legal conditions Indiana University would want to apply.”

In addition, while some claim it is illegal to mandate a vaccine with emergency use authorization, Denham said legal opinions vary, but the majority agree entities can inform people of the consequences of refusing the vaccines.

IU’s current policy does allow for certain religious and medical exemptions. Those who qualify must request exemption by June 15.

Indiana University wrote that there would be “strong consequences for those who do not receive an exemption and choose not to meet the vaccine requirement.

“For students, they will see their class registration canceled, CrimsonCard access terminated and access to IU systems such as Canvas and email terminated, and they will not be allowed to participate in any on-campus activity,” IU wrote in an announcement. “Faculty and staff who choose not to meet the requirement will no longer be able to be employed by Indiana University. Working remotely and not meeting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is not an option.

Students have started a petition urging IU to retract its vaccine mandate, which has acquired nearly 10,000 signatures. To read it, click here.

To read IU’s full policy, click here.

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