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Students protest Heidelberg University's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Dozens of students held signs and chanted "terminate the mandate" in downtown Tiffin, calling on Heidelberg University to withdraw its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Dozens of Heidelberg University students gathered in downtown Tiffin on Sunday to protest the school's vaccine mandate. 

The gathering came in response to an email sent recently from the University saying all students and staff needed to be fully vaccinated by January 3rd.

Students at the rally say they were blindsided by the announcement.

"University-wide everybody was accepting of the mask," said senior Branden Short, "and the vaccine wasn't really talked about at all until it was 'get it or you can't come back next semester'."

The University sent out emails in July and August, stating unvaccinated students would have to get tested regularly. The school also said they would encourage students to get vaccinated so the campus could reach 75 percent or herd immunity. 

As of October 18, the school's COVID-19 dashboard shows 77 percent of the campus is vaccinated. 

Credit: Heidelberg University

Now, students are asking why a mandate is needed.

"They hold the right to mandate and have these vaccines mandated and required to come to campus," said junior Branden Kahl. "But, to me, it's a question of 'is it right, is it correct, is it ethical'."

Students say they were never consulted by school leadership before the mandate was announced on October 7. But the university did state in an August 2 email that "plans for the fall semester are subject to change in the best interest of our campus community."

Kahl says he can't complete his major without in-person classes and that many students may be forced to go to another school.

"They're screwing over a lot of students here, a lot of seniors," said Kahl. "I feel for the seniors who are just about to graduate."

Right now, students say they just want to be heard and say the university, rather than forcing them out, should be looking for ways to accommodate those who don't want to get the vaccine.

"I feel like a line to students, to be able to communicate with them and be informed on what decisions they're talking about, would be great," said senior Jake Justice.

The Oct. 7 email concerning the vaccine mandate states the following:

"Students who are not in compliance by January 3, 2022 will not be allowed on Heidelberg’s campus and cannot participate in University classes or other activities. If available, those students may choose online courses to stay enrolled but cannot reside on campus or participate in other activities. Otherwise, students must withdraw their enrollment. Employees who are not in compliance by January 3, 2022 will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination." 

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