FILE - Indiana University

The campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

(The Center Square) – Indiana Senate Republicans want Indiana University to rescind a policy mandating all students and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus.

Indiana University has argued it is not part of the state and not covered by a bill signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in late April that prohibits state and local governments from requiring proof of vaccinations. Attorney General Todd Rokita rejected the argument, and the senators expressed concerns for what they called the university’s heavy-handed approach.

“We have grave concerns regarding your latest decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all students, staff, and faculty at all Indiana University campuses – a vaccine that has only an emergency-use authorization, rather than full FDA approval,” the Senate Republican Caucus wrote in a letter to IU President Michael McRobbie. “This heavy-handed mandate goes against many of the liberties on which our founders built our democratic republic.”

IU administration said in its mandate announcement "exemptions will be strictly limited to a very narrow set of criteria, including medical exemptions, and documented and significant religious exemptions."

The university denied at least two requests recently by undergraduate students for religious exemptions for summer study abroad programs. In one case, the university challenged the student, writing in an email to her: “We note that your request for a religious exemption is in conflict with your prior vaccination history. Therefore unless you can establish a change in your religious beliefs since your last vaccination this exemption request is denied.”

Caucus members also raised concerns students from lower socio-economic backgrounds could lose state and federal aid, while others could lose scholarships and deposits if forced to walk away from lease agreements. Employees also could lose their jobs, members said.

“Given these realities, it’s no surprise that we have heard from students, parents, faculty and concern Hoosier taxpayers (the men and women whose hard-earned money helps fund Indiana University) sharing valid concerns about being coerced into an impossible situation,” the letter reads.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.