Extra credit for flu shot forces URI students to choose between grade, beliefs students say

KINGSTON, R.I. (WLNE) — Students at the University of Rhode Island are speaking out over a course’s extra credit assignment — asking students to get the flu shot and show proof.

One student in the sociology class, who asked to remain nameless, said they are now forced to choose between their grades and beliefs.

“No matter if I do it or I don’t, then I am kind of at a loss,” said the student. “It does make me a little sad, because no one should have to disclose any medical information about themselves– especially with a professor where there is a power imbalance. I could not be getting the extra credit opportunity that other people are getting,” said the student.

The professor gave a statement to ABC 6 News Tuesday, saying,

I have been teaching for over 23 years and if there is one constant it’s that sometime between Halloween and final exams in December, far too many of our college aged students get sick with the flu. This is the worst time to miss in the fall semester as term papers come due and final exams approach at that time. Several years ago, I started to offer extra credit to all my fall classes for getting the flu shot to keep my students healthy and in classes instead of home sick with the flu. The nature of extra credit is that it is extra and optional. Nobody is being forced to get a flu shot, and nobody’s grade suffers in any way for not taking advantage of the extra credit. In fact, I offer an alternative extra credit assignment for students who do not want to get a flu shot. I don’t ask for reasons why students choose one assignment over another. Every year, URI offers students, faculty, and staff a free flu vaccination right on campus.

School officials said they were unaware of the extra credit assignments.

The student explained that the alternative extra credit assignment still sends the same message, saying, “We could also find a journal article about the effectiveness of the flu shot and do a writing on that.”

Students on campus were split on the assignment, and its ethics.

“There should be a way that makes it eligible for everybody to get it, despite their opinions on things, or how they morally feel,” said student Alli Magnus.

“Maybe the extra credit is a little weird. But if you’re pro-vaccine, and that’s something you want to reward people doing — go for it,” added another student.

The student in the sociology class plans on completing the alternate assignment provided.

“It seems that would probably be the best route to take, just so I don’t compromise what my beliefs are. It is on the effectiveness [of the vaccine], so maybe I can spin it on the ineffectiveness of it and get an open dialogue. It’s just hard to talk to people nowadays,” they concluded.

The university said it is looking into the situation.

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