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Some Universities Mandate Vaccines for Fall Students

FILE - A woman receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a FEMA vaccination center at Miami Dade College, April 5, 2021.
FILE - A woman receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a FEMA vaccination center at Miami Dade College, April 5, 2021.

More U.S. colleges and universities are announcing a return to in-person classes this fall, and some say they will mandate that students be vaccinated against the coronavirus before arriving on campus.

Cornell University in New York, Northeastern University in Massachusetts, Fort Lewis College in Colorado, St. Edward's University in Texas, and Brown and Roger Williams Universities in Rhode Island are some of the schools that have announced they will mandate vaccinations for the new semester.

Rutgers University in New Jersey, with 71,000 students, said inoculating the student community will "accelerate the return to a pre-pandemic normal on the university's campuses, including increased in-person course offerings, more on-campus events and activities," according to its website.

Nova Southeastern University in Florida, with nearly 26,000 students, announced April 1 that it will resume classes in person, encouraged by vaccine availability in the state, it said on its website.

By August 1, students, staff and faculty are to be fully vaccinated two weeks after two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are administered.

"I'm definitely excited to go back to in-person classes. I miss being with in-person classes, meeting professors face-to-face, just meeting people in class," said Yemisrach Hailemariam, a sophomore from Ethiopia, who is studying neuroscience at Brown University.

"It's really not the same over Zoom," she said about online learning.

Yemisrach Hailemariam
Yemisrach Hailemariam

Students at both universities are expected to prove they've received a vaccination authorized in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been put on pause, according to the FDA, after reports of side effects involving blood clots.

"We would love for all our students to be vaccinated before they go home to either places in the U.S. or places in other countries, because if they go there unvaccinated, they could actually carry the virus to their families and communities," said Gerri Taylor, co-chair of American College Health Association's COVID-19 Task Force outside Washington. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

International students' concerns

But where the more than 1 million international students who study in the U.S. get their immunizations is a concern, Taylor said.

"Because if they get immunized in their countries, the vaccine needs to be ideally approved" by the FDA, she said.

Neither the FDA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has announced which vaccines provided abroad will be accepted in the United States, Taylor said.

"Some of these students have actually been vaccinated in their home countries, perhaps with a Chinese vaccine, or with Sputnik V, or with the AstraZeneca vaccine," said William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Sputnik V was developed in Russia. The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed jointly by the British-Swedish drugmaker and scientists at the University of Oxford.

Several nations have issued new guidelines over the use of the AstraZeneca shot after the European Union's medical regulator announced a link between the vaccine and rare, possibly fatal, blood clots.

"Will they be accepted as vaccinated when they come back to the United States? And if not, can they be revaccinated with one of our currently available vaccines? And as far as I know, there are no data available on any of that," Schaffner said.

International students say they are uncertain about where to get inoculated in the U.S.

Vaccination availability for young people has been a low priority in the U.S. until recently because that cohort has suffered the least proportionally from COVID-19 so far. Most people of any age have had to search the internet, looking to secure an appointment on various lists that offer vaccines — health care providers, convenience stores that have pharmacies, mass vaccination centers, big-box stores and sports arenas — waiting for their turn.

"It's really hard because we don't have a home state," Yemisrach explained. "Especially as a freshman, if you're an international student and you don't know how to navigate local health systems."

Although some universities have announced they will resume in-person classes later this year, it is not clear whether vaccination requirements will be universal.

Pomona College in California, Pennsylvania State University, Boise State University in Idaho, Harvard University in Massachusetts, and the George Washington University (GWU) in Washington are some of the many that strongly suggest vaccination but have not made it mandatory.

State laws guide schools

By law, universities can enforce inoculations if the area in which they are located also mandates that every resident be vaccinated.

Vaccination "is the best way to get over corona as fast as we can because it's really bad in the U.S. and it's not going to leave anytime soon. So, I feel like vaccinations are probably our best bet," said Ewenet Seleshi, a freshman studying criminal justice at GWU.

"I don't think that people should be forced to be vaccinated, unless they're going to places like university," said Ewenet, who is from the U.S. state of Georgia.

"States have the legal and constitutional authority to require that the people who live in that state be vaccinated, or to introduce a vaccine mandate," according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Students can exempt themselves for religious or medical reasons. According to the CDC, some people reserve the right to choose not to take the vaccine because of a religious belief or because they say they may be at risk for an adverse reaction or have a medical condition.

If many people were to be exempted from the vaccine, then herd immunity — or making enough people immune so the coronavirus cannot spread — might not be enough. According to the World Health Organization, herd immunity occurs when a significant number of people within a population acquires resistance to the disease or virus either through infection or vaccination.

Fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a well-fitting mask, stay 2 meters apart from others, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, according to the CDC. Dickinson State University in North Dakota will allow students not to wear masks if they have proof of vaccination, it announced.

"We are in North Dakota, a state where there is no statewide mask mandate at this point. … We are trading off additional protection of masks for what we believe will motivate our students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated," Stephen D. Easton, president of Dickinson State, told NBC News in March.

"The best we can do for most of the school year was social distancing plus masks. We now have another tool that is more powerful, which is vaccination," Easton explained.

"I'll still be following COVID measures, but I probably will just be able to just go out a lot more. I'll still be wearing my mask when I go places. I just probably won't be wearing a double mask. I know a lot of people here are talking about getting the vaccine and going to parties, so I don't think a lot of people will be following a lot of the COVID safety measures," GWU freshman Ewenet said.

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Tips for first-year international students in the US

FILE- In this March 14, 2019, file photo, people walk on the Stanford University campus beneath Hoover Tower in Stanford, Calif.
FILE- In this March 14, 2019, file photo, people walk on the Stanford University campus beneath Hoover Tower in Stanford, Calif.

Book your flights right away, get a U.S. phone plan, make sure you have linens for your dorm and attend orientation – that’s some of the advice international students have for first-year college students coming from abroad.

U.S. News & World Report compiled helpful tips for students studying in the United States for the first time. (July 2024)

Survey: Social integration, career prep are important to international students

FILE - FILE - In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif.
FILE - FILE - In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif.

A recent survey of international students in the United States found that before starting school, they were concerned about personal safety, making friends and feeling homesick.

Inside Higher Ed reports that international students want specialized orientations, peer connections, career preparation and job placement to help make their college experiences successful. (July 2024)

US advisory council ends Nigeria visit, signs student exchange deal

Deniece Laurent-Mantey is the executive director of U.S President's Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement.
Deniece Laurent-Mantey is the executive director of U.S President's Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement.

Members of a U.S. presidential advisory council have approved a student exchange deal between an American college and a Nigerian university as part of the council's effort to strengthen collaboration on education, health, entrepreneurship and development between Africa and Africans living abroad.

The council also visited a health facility supported by the United States Agency for International Development in the capital.

Nigerian authorities and visitors chatted with members of the U.S President's Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement as they toured a healthcare facility in Karu, a suburb of Abuja, on the last day of the council's three-day visit to Abuja and Lagos.

The facility is one of many supported by the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, to improve the management of childhood illnesses, family planning, immunization and delivery.

The tour was part of the council's effort to promote African diaspora-led investments in technology entrepreneurship, education and healthcare delivery.

"They're doing a phenomenal job there, it really gave us a sense of what the healthcare system is in Nigeria," said Deniece Laurent-Mantey, executive director of the advisory council. "This is our first trip as a council to the continent and we chose Nigeria for a reason — the diaspora in Nigeria is very active, very influential, and they're really a source of strength when it comes to our U.S.-Africa policy. And so for us coming to Nigeria was very intentional."

The council was created by President Joe Biden in September to improve collaboration between Africa and its diaspora in terms of economic and social development.

Akila Udoji, manager of the Primary Healthcare Centre of Karu, said officials in Nigeria were pleased that the council members were able to visit.

"We're happy that they have seen what the money they have given to us to work with has been used to do, because they have been able to assist us in capacity-building, trainings, equipment supply and the makeover of the facility," Udoji said.

Earlier, the council signed a deal for a student exchange program between Spelman College in the southern U.S. city of Atlanta and Nigeria's University of Lagos.

Laurent-Mantey said education exchanges are one of the council's top priorities.

"In Lagos, we had the president of Spelman College — she's also a member of our council — she signed an agreement with the University of Lagos to further education exchange programs in STEM and creative industries between those two universities," Laurent-Mantey said. "And I think for us it's very important, because Spelman College is a historically Black university, and so here we are promoting the importance of collaboration between African Americans and Africans."

In March, the advisory council adopted its first set of recommendations for the U.S. president, including the student exchange initiative, advocating for more U.S. government support for Africa, climate-focused initiatives, and improving U.S. visa access for Africans.

The council met with Nigerian health and foreign affairs officials during the visit before leaving the country on Wednesday.

American Academy of the Arts College announces closure

FILE - Signs and writing denouncing the closure of the University of the Arts are seen at Dorrance Hamilton Hall on June 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. More recently, the American Academy of the Arts College in Chicago announced it would close.
FILE - Signs and writing denouncing the closure of the University of the Arts are seen at Dorrance Hamilton Hall on June 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. More recently, the American Academy of the Arts College in Chicago announced it would close.

The American Academy of Art College in Chicago announced it would be closing after 101 years of preparing students for careers in art and illustration.

WTTW news reported that like other art colleges, the academy saw enrollment drop after the pandemic, and officials made the decision to close the college last month. (July 2024)


5 killed, dozens injured in clashes over Bangladesh jobs quota system

Protesters of Bangladesh's quota system for government jobs clash with students who back the ruling Awami League party in Dhaka on July 16, 2024.
Protesters of Bangladesh's quota system for government jobs clash with students who back the ruling Awami League party in Dhaka on July 16, 2024.

At least 5 people were killed and dozens injured in two separate incidents in Bangladesh as violence continued Tuesday on university campuses in the nation's capital and elsewhere over a government jobs quota system, local media reports said quoting officials.

At least three of the dead were students and one was a pedestrian, the media reports said. Another man who died in Dhaka remained unidentified.

The deaths were reported Tuesday after overnight violence at a public university near Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. The violence involved members of a pro-government student body and other students, when police fired tear gas and charged the protesters with batons during the clashes, which spread at Jahangir Nagar University in Savar, outside Dhaka, according to students and authorities.

Protesters have been demanding an end to a quota reserved for family members of veterans who fought in Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971, which allows them to take up 30% of governmental jobs.

They argue that quota appointments are discriminatory and should be merit-based. Some said the current system benefits groups supporting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Some Cabinet ministers criticized the protesters, saying they played on students' emotions.

The Bengali-language Prothom Alo daily newspaper reported that one person died in Dhaka and three others, including a pedestrian, were killed after they suffered injuries during violence in Chattogram, a southeastern district, on Tuesday.

Prothom Alo and other media reports also said that a 22-year-old protester died in the northern district of Rangpur.

Details of the casualties could not be confirmed immediately.

Students clash over the quota system for government jobs in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 16, 2024.
Students clash over the quota system for government jobs in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 16, 2024.

While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh's private sector, many find government jobs stable and lucrative. Each year, some 3,000 such jobs open up to nearly 400,000 graduates.

Hasina said Tuesday that war veterans — commonly known as "freedom fighters" — should receive the highest respect for their sacrifice in 1971 regardless of their current political ideologies.

"Abandoning the dream of their own life, leaving behind their families, parents and everything, they joined the war with whatever they had," she said during an event at her office in Dhaka.

Protesters gathered in front of the university's official residence of the vice chancellor early Tuesday when violence broke out. Demonstrators accused the Bangladesh Chhatra League, a student wing of Hasina's ruling Awami League party, of attacking their "peaceful protests." According to local media reports, police and the ruling party-backed student wing attacked the protesters.

But Abdullahil Kafi, a senior police official, told the country's leading English-language newspaper Daily Star that they fired tear gas and "blank rounds" as protesters attacked the police. He said up to 15 police officers were injured.

More than 50 people were treated at Enam Medical College Hospital near Jahangir Nagar University as the violence continued for hours, said Ali Bin Solaiman, a medical officer of the hospital. He said at least 30 of them suffered pellet wounds.

On Monday, violence also spread at Dhaka University, the country's leading public university, as clashes gripped the campus in the capital. More than 100 students were injured in the clashes, police said.

On Tuesday, protesters blocked railways and some highways across the country, and in Dhaka, they halted traffic in many areas as they vowed to continue demonstrating until the demands were met.

Local media said police forces were spread across the capital to safeguard the peace.

Swapon, a protester and student at Dhaka University who gave only his first name, said they want the "rational reformation of the quota scheme." He said that after studying for six years, if he can't find a job, "it will cause me and my family to suffer."

Protesters say they are apolitical, but leaders of the ruling parties accused the opposition of using the demonstrations for political gains.

A ruling party-backed student activist, who refused to give his name, told The Associated Press that the protesters with the help of "goons" of the opposition's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami party vandalized their rooms at the student dormitories near the Curzon Hall of Dhaka University.

The family-of-the-veterans quota system was halted following a court order after mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh's High Court nulled the decision to reinstate the system once more, angering scores of students and triggering protests.

Last week, the Supreme Court suspended the High Court's order for four weeks and the chief justice asked protesting students to return to their classes, saying the court would issue a decision in four weeks.

However, the protests have continued daily, halting traffic in Dhaka.

The quota system also reserves government jobs for women, disabled people and ethnic minority groups, but students have protested against only the veterans system.

Hasina maintained power in an election in January that was again boycotted by the country's main opposition party and its allies due to Hasina's refusal to step down and hand over power to a caretaker government to oversee the election.

Her party favors keeping the quota for the families of the 1971 war heroes after her Awami League party, under the leadership of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led the independence war with the help of India. Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members in a military coup in 1975.

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