The excerpt below is a component of the weekly Higher Ed Issues Landscape Report, which analyzes the top conversation trends in higher education for the past week and highlights qualitative and quantitative insights on the topics and universities that drove coverage.
In the final week of March 2021, we explored growing conversations around COVID-19 vaccine requirements after Rutgers University became the first to require that students, faculty, and staff be vaccinated in order to return to campus. As of today, the Chronicle of Higher Education has identified 449 campuses requiring COVID-19 vaccines for students or employees. Vaccine requirements have garnered support but also increased criticism from student groups, faculty unions, and state legislators.
Communications Considerations Around COVID-19 Vaccinations:
- Anticipate pushback to policies requiring individuals to provide immunization documentation. Example: Indiana modified policies that required proof of immunization after push back from state officials.
- Maintain emphasis on the role of testing on campus in light of growing conversation about the need for rapid testing even with vaccines. Example: Our eyes on the Virus | Time.com (Note: participation in frequent testing offered as an alternative to providing proof of vaccination by Purdue University | Source)
- Consider positioning any incentive programs, like cash rewards, in the context of broader access initiatives as several experts have questioned how effective and equitable the incentives are. Source: Inside Higher Ed
- Anticipate the need to address questions about what people can and cannot ask of others in regards to their immunization status. Example: UW-Madison’s FAQs explain appropriate lines of questioning.
A Deeper Look (since March 25th, when vaccine requirement announcements began):
- There were 668K+ mentions of COVID-19 vaccines in the higher education online conversation
- There were 29K+ broadcast mentions, with the total estimated audience exceeding 627 million
- There were 3.9K online news articles, garnering over 1.2 million social media engagements
- CNN’s article about Rutgers being the first university to require the COVID-19 vaccine continued to lead online news in engagements with 64.7K total social media engagements
- In an analysis of 1.2K articles featuring keywords “vaccine + university + require” during this time period, there were ~907K total engagements. In Facebook, these articles generated 173.6K reactions, 56% of which were “Angry” (Source: Legend Labs BuzzSumo analysis)
Other Topics We’re Watching:
There has been an increase in faculty, staff, and students delivering organized statements in support of “Palestinian liberation” (Harvard), “in support of Palestine” (Cal Berkeley), and in “solidarity with the Palestinian people” (Princeton). Letters have spoken out against racism, colonialism, injustice, limited academic freedom, and reduced academic rights.