‘The same way the Holocaust started’: Students protest vaccine mandate on campus

Students stand in front of Tod Hall as part of a protest organized in response to the union's call for a vaccine mandate. Photo by Abigail Cloutier / The Jambar.

By Abigail Cloutier

Just over a dozen students and faculty gathered on campus Monday, Sept. 27 to protest the possibility of a vaccine mandate on campus. The protest was organized in response to the union’s call for a vaccine mandate on campus by a faculty member who left the union after the announcement.

“It comes down to having a choice. If we take away the basic rights and freedoms of being able to choose whether we put a vaccine in our body, that is the beginning stages of taking away so many more freedoms. I view it as this is the same way the Holocaust started. I mean, I know that’s putting it into very blunt terms, but this is the exact same way — it didn’t all happen at once — it was slowly by slowly. He took things away and this is exactly what they’re trying to do to us,” senior mechanical engineering technology major Cassandra Dean said. 

She said she didn’t agree with other universities’ choice to mandate the vaccine. Students marched with signs reading “Vaccine mandates are unconstitutional,” “No vax mandate,” and “My head hurts b/c you didnt [sic] take asprin [sic].” 

Dean said she trusted other vaccines like the measles vaccine because they have been around a long time, but expressed concern about the FDA’s speed of approval of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’d want it to be around and through its testing stages for at least 15-20 years,” Dean said. “They’re still trying to get us to take an experimental drug and I’m not OK with that.”

Mike Costarell, a mechanical engineering technology professor who helped organize the protest, said he just wants people to be able to make their own choices.

“My personal opinion is the campus should be politically neutral. And we have students in the classes — we shouldn’t lead them left or lead them right, here. So, if somebody has a political bias, I don’t think they should bring that into the classroom — for any of the issues on the left or for the right should just be about the content,” Costarell said.

When asked when a public health issue became political, he said, “When the union had to protest, that’s when I got involved on campus … when it comes to health care, that should be an individual choice.” 

The protest was advertised on campus as part of the YSU College Conservatives.

Sophomore STEM majors Andrea Klembay and Korey Kihm walked past the protest and declined to sign the petition against the mandate.

“We take classes, we’re both going into a further field of science, we’ve had talks about how [vaccines] have worked, how they’ve almost abolished polio, smallpox. There are people still saying it doesn’t work, and they’re covering it up as a choice, but really, why should you have a choice whether or not you should spread something that can kill people?” Kihm said. 

They as STEM majors think public understanding of science and trust of science needs to improve.

“SGA does have a current campaign going on, ‘Know the facts, get the vax,’ so the big thing is to just get people to actually know the facts of what is happening so they actually see the real evidence rather rather than like, ‘Oh, I heard this,’” Kihm said. 

“It’s just a lot of rumor-mongering, people just keep spreading misinformation, they keep buying into it — it’s really unfortunate,” Klembay said.