Students will soon receive incentives for being vaccinated before the start of the fall semester after Associated Students Inc. approved an initiative at its Oct. 6 senate meeting.
ASI senate members approved a $50,000 initiative to give students who were vaccinated prior to Aug. 16 a $50 gift card. The initiative is done in collaboration with the office of the president and student involvement.
ASI President D’Aungillique Jackson said the initiative began as a result of student complaints regarding the rollout of the current vaccine initiative for students who have not received the vaccine prior to Aug. 16.
“A lot of students felt a little upset that our current incentive program is only for those who have vaccinated after or [on] August 16 thereafter … As of August 15, we had 11,518 students who were fully vaccinated, and we have 567 who were partially vaccinated,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, roughly 50% of the student population would have been ineligible for the current vaccination incentive program.
ASI, student involvement and the Office of the President will contribute a maximum of $50,000 to the incentive for a total of $150,000. This will provide 3,000 $50 gift cards for eligible students and can be used at either the Kennel Bookstore or dining services on campus.
The gift card will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Vice President of Finance Julia Larralde noted the funds ASI plans to give for the student initiative would be pulled from the planning future operations reserve (PFO). Currently, there is $269,447 within the PFO reserve, according to Larralde.
While the entities plan to allocate a total of $150,000, the university plans to pay the initial gift cards until Dec. 15 to see how many students actually redeem the gift card incentive.
Once the final tally is submitted, then the three campus entities will split the cost of the incentive in thirds.
Jackson addressed concerns amongst senators regarding the availability of 3,000 gift cards as there are roughly 12,000 students who are eligible under the proposed initiative.
“I think it’s important for us to start smaller, see how many we can get to utilize that 3,000, and then from there build out… I know that a few of you may be like, ‘Well, why can’t we do more?’ And the reason is because we want to make sure that this is a program that students will utilize,” Jackson said.
Similar to the current student incentive for unvaccinated students, vaccinated students must show proof of vaccination at the Student Health and Counseling Center to receive a gift card.
Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer Debbie Adishian-Astone said the initiative can begin as early as Oct. 11. The administration is waiting on the directive of the ASI senate prior to moving forward with the rollout.
“We recognize that it’s a considerable amount of investment, but at the same time we do feel it is something that would provide equity amongst our students who were vaccinated prior to August 16,” Astone said.
In continuation of the previous senate meeting, the senate further discussed the current vaccination efforts on the university campus.
Jackson highlighted the concerns amongst officials regarding the weekly testing of unvaccinated individuals. Any student or employee who is unvaccinated and has a medical or religious exemption is required to undergo weekly testing at the university.
According to Jackson, of the roughly 3,800 exempt individuals on the university campuses that are required to do weekly testing, only roughly 1,300 people received their weekly testing as of Oct. 1.
“We have a total of roughly 3,000 students who should be getting tested weekly. With our employees, there’s roughly 900… You’re looking at roughly 3,800 people on our campus who should be getting tested, and right now we only have, as of last week, as of October 1, we only have roughly 1,300 people who have gotten tested,” Jackson said.
According to the latest data provided by ASI, 1,274 weekly tests have been conducted through Oct. 1 at the Satellite Student Union, but 3,896 individuals need to be tested. This means only about 33% of individuals are getting tested right now.
However, it’s not clear whether that data reflects testing done by unvaccinated individuals.
Senator of Sustainability Kristine Kemmer questioned that and noted that the testing done in the Satellite Student Union (SSU) is currently open to all on the university campus.
Jackson said the third-party organization responsible for the weekly COVID-19 testing is currently not able to separate the data collected due to the relative time at which they were hired.
“It’s my understanding right now that we’re not at a place in data collection to be able to separate the data… We’re still waiting for our third party to get to a point to where they’re not really over capacity because we did bring them in on kind of a short notice,” Jackson said.
Senator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Karen Carrillo said she didn’t understand why the mandatory COVID-19 testing wasn’t being taken seriously by the vaccine-exempt students. She felt that the university should emphasize the potential repercussions to students as motivation to do their mandatory testing.
For those who refuse weekly testing, Jackson noted that, with the current key card verification proposal, those individuals would lose access to campus resources such as printing services and flex cash among other items.
Astone informed the senate that individuals who have been required to do the weekly testing have been receiving regular email notifications informing them of their mandatory testing requirements.
She also said individuals who have not completed the self-certification form have had an administrative hold on their student portal account in order to register for classes for the upcoming spring semester.
Students who have not conducted their weekly testing at all since the start of the semester will have all ID card privileges revoked until they test at the SSU beginning Oct. 18.
“The Bulldog ID privileges, which are things like your pay for print, reflect cash access to the Student Rec Center. Wherever kind of your ID card is required to buy, you know discount tickets here at the Student Union,” Astone said.