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University Presidents Ask For Quicker Campus Vaccinations

Watterson Towers residence hall at ISU

The heads of colleges and universities in Illinois are asking Gov. JB Pritzker to move higher education faculty and staff up to 1B in the vaccination queue.

Illinois State University President Larry Dietz convenes the group of public university heads. Dietz said it's an issue of parity.

"Our K-12 colleagues’ faculty and staff have been included in 1B. And we don't see a major distinction between that faculty and staff and our own faculty and staff," said Dietz.

The letter sent by public university presidents and chancellors said there are economic, educational, and societal reasons to move up university faculty, staff, and students in the vaccine line. An organization representing private colleges and universities in Illinois also signed onto the letter.

"The CDC recommends that faculty and staff be moved into 1B. And some of our neighboring states have also done that. And so, we are simply asking for the same considerations," said Dietz.

A letter sent to the governor from public university presidents says without a strong signal that vaccinations will be available before the fall term, students are more likely to leave the state for school.

The universities said the present vaccination timeline suggests Illinois colleges and universities would have to be predominantly online for the fall semester.

The letter said earlier vaccinations would help the institutions return to in-person learning, reduce the risks of employees and students contracting COVID-19, and prevent further economic damage to the institutions and their host communities.

In addition, the letter claims on-campus vaccine distribution would not increase the burden on local health departments because college campuses generally have the infrastructure to handle mass vaccination clinics.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.