March 3 Weekly Interview With USU President Noelle Cockett
You're listening to Utah Public Radio. I'm Kerry Bringhurst. Joining me is Utah State University President Noelle Cockett, and we wanted to talk today about the increased opportunities for staff and employees to be immunized. And President Cockett, is that something that will be required of your staff and faculty?
NC: We are certainly not requiring the vaccination as a condition of employment or as a condition of registration for students. But every time we've sent out opportunities for people to, you know, get a vaccination, there's been a lot of interest in that. I actually did have the opportunity to be vaccinated as a frontline responder because of the work that I've done in our testing centers. So I actually had my second dose of Pfizer on Monday, got a little chill with a little bit of a fever, but by the next day felt really good. And it's a really wild feeling. I was thinking, “Well, you know, I'm gonna come on campus more.”
KB: Kind of freeing, isn't it?
NC: Yeah, I feel better for myself, and I can feel better about the people that I'm around. I will continue to wear my mask, so no one gets nervous around me. But it really is a good feeling for myself.
KB: At some point as students will be in the running for the vaccinations, do you hear anything on campus? Have any indication from students about whether or not the majority of them plan to get the vaccination once it's available to them?
NC: So our present student president, Sami Ahmed, and his executive council did a survey of students in, I'm thinking it was about November, really before there wasn't much information about the vaccination, and got a great response. I think it was 4-6000 students. And I am so pleased to say that 75 percent of the students said they would be interested in receiving a vaccination, particularly if it was of no cost and if it could be very handy, such as a vaccination clinic on our campuses. And so, we really are working towards that as a possibility. And hopefully, as you mentioned, with more and more doses available to be able to offer that kind of opportunity for our students.
I'm really excited that our students see the value of being vaccinated so that we can get back to again, more in-person activities, more in-person events, more in-person classes and labs, even though maybe we're, you know, continuing with masks, etc. The fall semester, you know, looking five,six months out, looks very, very promising for starting to have normal organization of things. Although like I said, could still have masks, could still have plexiglass, etc.
KB: In November, you announced that the March 8th-12th spring break had been cancelled to make up the days from the later start date and to help reduce the opportunity for the spread of coronavirus. Any regrets on making that decision?
NC: We thought that it would be better not to dismiss students after a spring break and not a long spring break and not ask them to return to campus, but to instead do short, long weekends across the semester, but always have them come back to campuses after that break. Again, it was a decision that needed to be made in November 2020. Today, things of course, look a lot different. I think if we knew today, if we were making the decision today, we wouldn't have been so worried about a long spring break and students returning. But in November of 2020 that looked like it was a tough thing to implement.
KB: We've been speaking with Utah State University President Noelle Cockett. Thanks for joining us.