Students petition the university’s booster requirement

Law students are asking the school to reconsider the requirement and the consequences of not obeying


Current vaccination status of Washington and Lee community members. Data courtesy of the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Sophie Kidd

COVID-19 guidelines at Washington and Lee University have been changing since the beginning of the pandemic. As cases begin to drop within the community and throughout the country, some guidelines have relaxed, and new ones have been created.

Before students returned to school for the winter semester, the COVID Committee announced that all students would be required to receive booster shots by the 31 of January. Students who recently tested positive for the virus have 90 days before they must receive their booster.

 “I was surprised that they waited so long to require students to get boosted,” Shannon Wright, ’22, said. “But it wasn’t really a big deal since I received my booster shot in November anyway.”

Other students have met the requirement with frustration. A petition created by law students began circulating last week after Phoebe Brannock, ‘23L, was contacted by the administration after refusing her booster shot.

“I had decided before I came back to school that the benefits of getting the booster were less than the risks,” Brannock said.

Last week, Brannock received an email saying she was out of compliance with COVID guidelines and would need to get her booster shot. Otherwise, she would be unenrolled in her spring courses.

Brannock met with Associate Dean of Law Student Affairs Trenya Mason to discuss the email and learned that it was intended for undergraduate students. The law school is currently deciding on possible consequences for compliance failure, such as losing eligibility to register for courses or graduate.

Other students, like Wade Bredin, ‘23L, met with Brannock to create and circulate a petition aimed at dissuading the school from requiring booster shots in the future.

“I though the meeting was extremely productive and that the school completely listened to our concerns,” Bredin said. “It could not have been handled in a more professional or sympathetic way.”

The petition currently has 73 signatures, including undergraduate students, law students, parents, alumni and “members of the southwester Virginia legal community.” However, the majority of signatures are currently from law students.

Notably, multiple members of the Generals Redoubt have signed the petition, and the group has reposted it on their social media. However, Brannock and Bredin say that they were not involved in the creation of the petition.  

“People don’t want to get involved because of the politics of it,” Bredin said. “But if that was taken away, most people would agree that they would like the freedom to choose which medical procedures they receive.”

The COVID Committee did not respond to requests for a comment but are expected to consider the petition in future meetings.

“It’s about balancing [immunocompromised community member’s] right to safety with everyone’s right to decide what medical treatments they want to receive and what goes into their body,” Bredin said.

Another big change to the school’s COVID guidelines came earlier this month when the COVID Committee announced that the school would no longer be gathering close contacts from infected students and community members.

The committee said students would now be required to contact any close contacts on their own.

“Omicron is currently the most common variant and is spreading so rapidly it is no longer productive or possible to track contacts of positive cases,” they said in an email. However, the school will continue to alert students and faculty of possible classroom exposure.

Cases on campus have gone down significantly since the start of the semester, with only 23 active cases reported last week.