© 2023 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging UConn's Vaccine Policy

A University of Connecticut report found students aren’t familiar enough with what resources to use and don’t trust the resources they are familiar with, such as going to administrators or police.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
A University of Connecticut report found students aren’t familiar enough with what resources to use and don’t trust the resources they are familiar with, such as going to administrators or police.

A federal judge on Monday sided with the University of Connecticut in a legal challenge against its coronavirus vaccine policy, upholding a requirement for students to get the shot or request an exemption before returning to campus.

Two students and the parent of an incoming freshman sued university trustees last month, arguing they failed to provide clear guidance around UConn’s coronavirus vaccination policy and applied it arbitrarily by excluding faculty and staff.

However, Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer dismissed the lawsuit Monday, finding the students lack standing to sue the school in federal court because they’re free to request exemptions from UConn’s vaccine requirement.

Meyer declined to grant a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the school from enforcing the vaccine policy before students return at the end of August.

The plaintiffs “raise important constitutional questions” on when the government can set conditions on public education but failed to show any risk of imminent harm created by UConn's policy, Meyer wrote.

“Two of the three plaintiffs have applied for and received exemptions from the UConn vaccination requirement,” he wrote. “Having received exemptions, their claims are moot because they are unlikely to face any continuing injury from the vaccination requirement.

“The third plaintiff has declined even to seek an exemption,” Meyer continued, referring to an incoming sophomore who is transferring into UConn’s Allied Health Science department and has yet to request a waiver from the school. “Having failed to avail herself of a simple process that may allow her to avoid the vaccination requirement, she has not suffered an injury that the law recognizes as the basis for a right to complain in federal court. Accordingly, the Constitution requires me to dismiss this action for lack of federal jurisdiction.”

Under the policy, students participating in any on-campus activities must be vaccinated or seek an exemption, which allows them to attend with heightened health and safety requirements, such as wearing masks and undergoing regular testing.

More than 90% of students have complied to date, though 771 asked to be exempt for nonmedical reasons, such as religious belief or personal discomfort with the vaccine, according to information disclosed by the university in court.

As of July 23, UConn’s dean of students had granted 504 nonmedical exemption requests. Decisions were pending in the remainder. An additional 55 students requested medical exemptions, which were also under review.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus vaccines in use in the United States are safe and effective, and serious problems among those who get vaccinated are rare. Nationwide, more than 351 million doses have been administered to date.

In an announcement Thursday, UConn said 94% of students who will be living on the Storrs campus have been vaccinated, and 97% have complied with its vaccine policy by either providing proof or requesting an exemption.

Jim Haddadin is a data journalist for The Accountability Project, Connecticut Public's investigative reporting team. He was previously an investigative producer for NBC Boston, and wrote for newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.