If you are an international student at Stanford, your university doesn’t really care about you -- that is, unless you have your booster shot.
In late March, Diogo Braganca, an international physics PhD candidate at Stanford, wrote that his choice to skip the booster — despite getting the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — has led to an enrollment hold for Spring Quarter. If Braganca is not officially enrolled by Week 3 of Spring Quarter (April 15), then his J-1 visa will be canceled, alongside the J-2 visas of his wife and children.
Stanford’s history of unwarranted and draconian COVID measures is disappointing, but this latest requirement borders on absurdity. Students must obtain a COVID booster shot, even if they are doubly-vaccinated, healthy, and young. And through enforcement via enrollment holds, the Vaden Health Center can hold students’ degrees hostage.
While American students opposed to the booster may find workarounds to getting the shot, the situation is far more dire for international students, as an enrollment hold is effectively a threat of deportation. Absent valid student visa status, these individuals will be denied entry to the country. Stanford’s administration is busy embedding ethics in the curriculum and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, but simultaneously defends a policy of immediate refusal upon entry for non-boosted students.
Can this illiberal, authoritarian measure be deemed reasonable? Absolutely not. It is incumbent on the University to avoid mandates that prioritize ideology over the medical freedom and bodily autonomy of students and Stanford community members.
A fourth vaccine dose is beginning to be rolled out, and some medical staff and faculty over the age of 50 are eligible to receive it. Studies are already claiming to show the supposed effectiveness of a second booster shot, but some of these studies have severe methodological defects. Will Stanford’s administration once again avoid scientific evidence while patting itself on the back for ‘keeping students safe’?
We call on the Stanford administration to stop bullying reasonable students and immediately revoke its booster mandate. If the administration wants to save any shred of trust and face for itself, it’s time to move on and let responsible students take care of their own health.