New policies and low student vaccination rate cause frustration among students



Mask usage will be required indoors for at least the first two weeks of the semester.

by Amelia Schafer, Editor-in-chief

On Monday, Aug. 9, in an email to the entire campus community, Simpson’s Crisis Management Team released plans for COVID policies this upcoming semester. This email included information about mask mandates and reported a 50% vaccination rate among students. 

To align with updated CDC guidance, this mandate applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. We will keep our masks on through Sept. 10, at which time we will re-evaluate our on-campus vaccination levels and the transmission rate of our surrounding region,” the email stated. 

On May 20, Gov. Kim Reynold’s signed a new law banning the implementation of masks mandates in public institutions. Due to its status as a private college, Simpson is still allowed to enforce mask mandates as it sees fit. 

Vaccinations are not required at Simpson College among employees or students. Grinnell College is currently the only Iowan college to institute a vaccine requirement. 

According to CMT chair Heidi Levine, as of Aug. 10, 53% of Simpson students had submitted proof of vaccination to health services.  Meanwhile, over 80% of full-time faculty and staff report being vaccinated. 

“It’s less about the vaccination rate and more about the fact that Warren County has now entered the category of having substantial community spread,” Levine said. “Given the way that the delta variant spreads, everybody will be masking up indoors.” 

Levine said she predicts that as more vaccination records roll in, the campus will move closer to reopening in the yellow phase. In just one day, the reported vaccination rate rose from 50% to 53% as more students turned in their cards to health services. 

The yellow phase has been slightly modified from what it looked like last year. Masks will be required in classrooms, campus housing public spaces, non-residential buildings and private offices (if not all parties are vaccinated). Masks are not required to be worn outdoors, including at outdoor events. Additionally, indoor events may be held at up to 100% capacity, but masks must be worn at all times during the event. 

Another large change comes in the form of randomized testing; 35% of unvaccinated full-time students must be tested each week. Since names are drawn from a pool, students may be selected multiple weeks in a row, but the school will never test more than once per week. 

This news has been met with mixed emotions from students. Many students were hoping to reach the green phase of operation, which resembles campus life pre-pandemic. 

Within the green phase, mask use is optional for all individuals (except for in the classroom), and no restrictions will be applied within dining or residential facilities; however, an 80% vaccination rate amongst students is necessary to achieve this phase. 

This low vaccination rate could be due to students not checking their emails over the summer, as email is the primary method to provide proof of vaccination to health services.

A Twitter poll hosted by The Simpsonian found that out of 141 Simpson students who responded, 87.2% reported being fully vaccinated, 10.6% reported being unvaccinated and 2.1% reported that they would soon be fully vaccinated. 

Additionally, a second poll found that out of 70 Simpson students who responded, only 58% reported regularly checking their email over the summer. Out of those who did not check their email regularly, 14.8% reported not checking their email at all and 27.5% reported rarely checking their email.

Many students expressed frustration and anger at the Aug. 9 announcement for a variety of reasons.

Senior Maraya Haynes said she was overall frustrated by the low vaccination rate. 

“Simpson has put on three vaccination clinics, and there will be another one on Aug. 29,” Haynes said. “Simpson is doing everything it can to try and let us have a good year. I’m not worried about wearing a mask; I don’t want my experience to be in jeopardy.”

As a senior, Haynes’ college career has been anything less than normal – half of it has been overshadowed by a global pandemic. 

“I’m so tired of sitting in my room and not being able to make memories,” Haynes said. “This is supposed to be the best four years of my life, and I’ve wasted two of them behind a screen. I’m walking into my senior year without even knowing what college is like.” 

Junior Derek Maxfield said he completely agreed with the policies last semester but is unhappy with how things look coming into the new school year. 

“Last year, I was fine with what Simpson did,” Maxfield said. “They handled it really well, but the new policies, I don’t think they need to be in place. At this point, we have a vaccine. I don’t think we need to keep pushing these masks. People who feel the need to or want to wear masks, they can do that. When the vaccine is available, and masks are available, I don’t see the point in doing it.” 

Maxfield was vaccinated in Spring 2021 and said he did so to have a shot at a normal school year. 

“It’s kind of disappointing. I was going to go into this year with nothing COVID related,” Maxfield said. “Nothing will ever fully go back to normal, but I was hoping for a decent shot at it. It’s disappointing losing another year. College is supposed to be fun, and when you’re cooped up, it’s really not that fun.” 

Several students took to Twitter to express their frustration at the new policies and low vaccination rate. 

“I know a few others that aren’t agreeing with the new rules; I’ve seen some stuff on Twitter,” Maxfield said. “Most of what I’ve seen on Twitter is people being upset that we didn’t reach the vaccination rate.”

The CMT met on Wednesday, Aug. 11, to discuss additional policies regarding residence life and dining. These changes have not yet been made available to the campus community. 

All vaccinated students are asked to email a photo of their vaccination card to [email protected]. Faculty and staff are asked to send their photos to [email protected]

Additionally, there will be a $200 weekly cash drawing among all vaccinated students. The earlier the vaccination is sent in; the more weighted the name will be in the drawing poll. Five names will be drawn each week for ten weeks.