Indiana News

Attorney General Rokita: IU’s vaccination mandate violates Indiana law

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita pumped the brakes Wednesday on the decision by Indiana University to require faculty and students to prove they’ve gotten the coronavirus vaccine.

The Republican said IU’s requirement is against the law. Rokita issued his official opinion Wednesday evening at the request of two Republican lawmakers.

But, IU officials maintain confidence they’re fully within their rights, even pointing to statements from the new state law’s co-author.

It’s a little unclear who will blink first in this showdown or what will happen next.

Meanwhile, IU junior Summer Johnson said she isn’t worried by IU’s vaccination mandate. “Just me personally, I’m willing to do it because I miss being on campus and in person so much.”

Johnson said having classes exclusively online this last year has been tough. While she hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, she plans to do so soon, not just because of the recently announced university mandate.

“I don’t think IU is necessarily crossing a line,” Johnson said. “I just think they’re trying to do make sure that everyone is being safe, but I do understand how it could upset some people.”

Johnson said she doesn’t know anyone who plans to go elsewhere if they have to show proof of vaccination to return to campus.

“I think that my friends are so excited to be back on campus and have everything in person,” she said.

Rokita said in his opinion that he believes the IU policy, which requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccination for staff, faculty and students, violates House Bill 1405 passed this year, which states while universities can require the vaccine but can’t require proof from students.

“To be forced, I think that’s kind of wrong,” IU grad student Conor McGee said on Tuesday, the day before Rokita’s opinion was released. McGee has already gotten his vaccine.

“It should be left to everyone’s opinion,” McGee said. “I don’t think it should be forced down by the federal government or anywhere.”

But, Indiana University officials disagree with Rokita’s assessment. They point to a statement from state Rep. Chris Campbell, a co-author of HB 1405. She said state universities and colleges are not covered by the bill.

IU said they will continue to provide religious and medical exemptions as warranted, similar to their policy to the other six vaccinations required by state law on campus.

Scott Isenhart, a former IU student, doesn’t take issue with the mandate. “IU’s thoughts in this process fall right in line with all the other vaccinations that they require for students to be able to attend and maintain a healthy atmosphere.”

Rokita’s office did not respond to a News 8 interview request Wednesday evening.

Indiana University officials pointed to earlier statements and also declined an interview request.