The seventh full week of classes on campus will be Oct. 8. Disregarding the week we have blocked off for Thanksgiving, Northwest is exactly halfway through its fall semester — give or take a few days.
Many students are starting to feel the weight of midterms, the cooling of temperatures and the usual decline in motivation to attend class. Many Bearcats would appreciate Northwest offering days off from classes. If Northwest were to set a target vaccination percentage to earn days off, the offer would be a good incentive for students to get vaccinated.
We know this sounds like a group of students just begging for a break from classes, but there are numerous reasons why this new incentive could be effective.
First, Northwest could be strategic and offer a break that is beneficial to both students and faculty. For example, Northwest implemented prep week during the pandemic as a way to give students a break prior to taking finals. This year prep week has disappeared, but the stress COVID-19 puts on education has not.
Offering the Friday before finals week off as part of the hypothetical incentive would give students extra study time, and professors extra time to submit grades prior to finals week. It’s also a day when classes rarely, if ever, introduce new material. Most sessions on those days are dedicated to review time anyway or sometimes canceled by professors individually.
Second, this incentive would ensure that all students get a piece of the prize. The drawings were a great way to incentivize students to report their status, but students were forced to rely on luck to try and get something out of it — besides being protected against a deadly virus. With a days off incentive, everybody would benefit, not just the small percentage of students with their name chosen.
Third, we need other incentives anyway to give the people making decisions the data they need to make them. Vaccine rates of students are an important factor in the mitigation efforts placed on campus. If vaccination rates reach a high threshold among students, the need for a mask mandate would be reduced.
A new incentive of this nature could encourage more students to get vaccinated or report that they are vaccinated and give leadership more data to make informed decisions.
It wouldn’t be too far-fetched, as other colleges have done so. The University of Central Oklahoma introduced a Move the Needle vaccine campaign to encourage students to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. Unlike Northwest, Central Oklahoma will have a fall break Oct. 13-15, and it offered students the chance to increase the break based on self-reported vaccination statistics before Oct. 1.
If 50% of the student body was vaccinated, one day would be added to the break. Two and three days would be added if student vaccinations reached 60% and 70%, respectively. As of Oct. 1, 41% of the student population at Central Oklahoma was vaccinated, according to the university’s twitter. Three days later, Central Oklahoma tallied its vaccination results and failed to hit its 50% vaccination goal.
Despite the failure of Central Oklahoma’s incentive, it still gave them data to make informed decisions in the future. So, even if students don’t hit the incentive threshold the incentives can still be useful.
It would be difficult for Northwest to adopt an identical campaign; October has already started, and the University’s calendar has no fall break. However, there are other options. Northwest could implement this for the beginning of Winter Break, with a Dec. 1 deadline or plan for action during spring break.
After the removal of last year’s spring break, it’s doubtful that Bearcats would be opposed to the opportunity to earn a longer break this year. Additionally, faculty and staff would earn extra days to escape the confines of educational buildings.
If vaccination rates cease to rise, it would be wise for Northwest to think of multiple ideas to encourage students to receive the vaccine. Although redundant, it’s better to offer solutions than to idly watch the problem to continue.
A days-off incentive would directly impact each student and eliminate the demand to care for your fellow classmates; it's somewhat of a personal reward for a collective effort.
Earning days off would also be easier than winning one of Northwest’s five scholarships for reporting the existence of a vaccination card. Someone who's skeptical of lottery-esque entries would be more intrigued by the guarantee of excused days than a lottery they probably won’t win.
The Northwest Missourian is once again advising students to get vaccinated because it’s a safe and effective way to save lives, but this time there’s a little extra. It would be nice to have a couple days off — essentially for good behavior — to relax, study for finals or even make a trip home. The University should seriously consider the option, both for the happiness of the students and the safety of campus.