VaccinateKU protest

Students protest outside Wescoe Hall urging the KU administration to implement a mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine.

A rally organized by Vaccinate KU took place in front of Wescoe Hall Sunday to urge University of Kansas administration to work with the Kansas legislature to mandate campus-wide vaccination.

The event included speeches from Student Body President Niya McAdoo, Vaccinate KU founder and organizer Sophie Kunin and various faculty members.

Kunin, a senior and triple major, organized the rally to bring attention to inaction by KU administration. She said that doing what she calls the bare minimum is not enough.

“I really wanted the university to recognize that they need to take into account safety precautions and require vaccinations just as hundreds of schools are around the country,” Kunin said. “We shouldn’t be any different. We should be taking into account peoples’ lives, so that’s why I made this -- because there weren’t any safety precautions in place. There was the bare minimum.” 

Aziel Aguilar, a freshman and interior architecture major from Independence, Missouri, joined the protest as well. 

“I am not usually into politics, but I thought I might as well step in to help vaccinate KU. I thought I’d step in for once,” Aguilar said. “I am hoping that more people will become vaccinated and more people will be safe.”

McAdoo spoke in favor of vaccine mandates to protect those in the Lawrence community. She also said that the KU administration needed to do more to connect with students to see why they were not vaccinated.

“I would like to see KU take the initiative like a lot of other colleges are doing and having students, faculty, and staff get vaccinated," McAdoo said. "This is for protecting the greater community and I think that if people truly care about their community that they would step up and be willing to get vaccinated.”

Sophomore Jamie Kalen, a visual art education major from Southlake, TX, spoke about the importance of vaccine requirements and supporting public health.

“I think it’s really important that the Lawrence community stands up for themselves and people with limited access to resources to help them if they get COVID,” Kalen said.

KU associate professor Ward Lyles shared his knowledge of social and behavioral science in response to COVID.

“I study disasters for a living and I’ve been really active in trying to get the University to pay attention to what we know from social and behavioral science,” Lyles said. “In almost all disasters, first responders are neighbors -- people for each other. What I’ve observed on campus is a tremendous amount of emotional, physical and mental health labor -- peer-to-peer, student-to-student, faculty-to-student -- it’s created a tremendous amount of work.”

Gretchen Boxberger, a speaker at the event and an ICU nurse, heard about the event from some of her friends, and wanted to get more involved.

“I’m hoping to see at least more of a change ... that being [at] athletic events, maybe showing proof of vaccination ... or if we can, to require vaccines all across campus,” Boxberger said.

As an ICU nurse, Boxberger has also seen COVID-19 patients. She says that the emotion has been drained out of the process.

“We’re not just seeing 70-year-olds, we’re seeing 30-year-olds, pregnant patients, and most of them are unvaccinated,” Boxberger said. “They didn’t get the vaccine, and now they’re sick. We have had a few patients tell me that they regret not getting it, and that’s the hardest part, because there they are now.”

Kunin, in her concluding speech, ended the day on a positive note, saying that the event had achieved its goal of getting the message out.

“We had speakers, we had the presence, we have the media," said Kunin. "The greater Lawrence community and the KU community are aware of the problem that holds at KU, of the lack of safety precautions and vaccination requirements. This is the important message that was let out today."

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