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University of Minnesota Duluth student group speaks out against vaccine mandate

Student Lucius LaFromboise is asking higher education administration to consider a different approach to the vaccine mandate.

Petition drive helps talks to UMD student
Jacob Ringstad, right, talks to Anthony Urkiel at UMD on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Urkiel was one of the campus community members signing a petition calling for an end to a mandate to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"Public Means Public" and "End the Mandate" read signs a group of University of Minnesota Duluth students created to call for an end to the vaccine mandate implemented in September.

Senior Lucius LaFromboise organized an anti-vaccine mandate petition drive in Kirby Student Center on Wednesday. The petition would go to University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and the university's board of regents.

Petition driver organizer
Lucius LaFromboise
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

As of fall 2021, all U of M students enrolled online or in-person must complete a COVID-19 vaccine form . The form asks students to submit their vaccination information or submit documentation of a religious or medical exemption. No photo of a vaccination card is required.

If students do not fill out the form, an "academic hold" is placed on their records. The hold won't allow students to enroll in spring semester classes.
LaFromboise was denied access into what would be his last semester as a senior for not completing the vaccination form.

"I have no problems with vaccines. I think they're great. What I have a problem with is a public university like the University of Minnesota denying access to educational resources," LaFromboise said.

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LaFromboise said he wants to have an "open discussion" with higher administration to come up with a compromise that keeps students safe and allows access to everyone, regardless of whether they fill out a vaccination form.

Student signs petition
Will Wessel signs a petition Jan. 12, 2022, calling for the end of a mandate to receive COVID-19 vaccinations at UMD.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Second-year student Madison Saint-Jean said she is on board with the current rules.

"I firmly agree with the vaccine mandate," Saint-Jean said. "In my experience, it's pretty normal for a public university funded by the federal government to have some kind of mandate with vaccines and such."

Saint-Jean said the university form doesn't ask for pictures or proof of a vaccination card. The form requires vaccine dates along with the type of vaccine. She added that even if students don't agree with the mandate, she claims it's easy to put false information in the form and attend unvaccinated .

The University of Minnesota system had received roughly 1,400 requests for vaccine exemption due to sincerely held religious beliefs as of Monday. None have been denied for reasons based on merit.

UMD spokesperson Lynne Williams said the university has found the form process to work in the past and is seeking consistency with past practice.

"We expect that our students and campus community to model our core value of integrity. There are ways for health officials to verify immunization records," Williams said.

Williams said the university stands by its decision and the health of UMD's community is its top priority.

"Requiring student immunization information is not new," Williams said in a statement. "Currently, Minnesota law requires all students born after Dec. 31, 1956, who enroll in a Minnesota college or university to be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella. COVID vaccines have been added to the list of required vaccinations for students."

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Williams said that while the university stands by its vaccine decisions, it respects the free speech rights of students.

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