Vaccination should not come through exploitation

By Editorial Board

Sarah Fagan

In the recent weeks, we’ve witnessed students scramble to sign up for Covid-19 vaccinations amid widespread confusion as to whether BIPOC students — and members of their households — are eligible to receive a vaccine. In the wake of this rush to get vaccinated, many BIPOC students were left feeling tokenized and exploited. 

A policy allowing household members of people of color to also register for the vaccine excited students who were under the impression they were several weeks away from falling into any eligibility category. But as everyone living on campus technically holds the same address, this vague “household” qualifier has created a situation where students must individually judge their own qualifications. The nitty-gritty details, like whether a “household” includes college roommates, suitemates, housemates or close contacts, are left up to us to decide.

We’ve seen qualifying suites and roommate groups sign up for vaccines together. That’s fantastic. But as Divya Gudur ’21 and Melynda Payne ’21 wrote on Instagram in a widely shared post, it can also leave BIPOC students feeling frustrated and tokenized to see white peers scour their list of friends to find that one BIPOC student they can use to register for the vaccine. 

For many BIPOC students, this is reminiscent of experiences where they feel reduced to their identities for the convenience of their white peers, such as when they are asked to educate their peers by offering their opinions as — and only as — a BIPOC person. 

If you had to think hard about whether or not you’re technically in a household with a BIPOC student, then you should carefully consider whether your choice leaves your friends and housemates of color feeling exploited. You might ask yourself, do you only appreciate their cultural and racial identity when it is convenient for you? 

We want to encourage students to register for appointments when they feel that they are eligible. But if you’re going to use this method to get a vaccine, the least you can do is make sure you tell the person who has qualified you and confirm that they’re okay with it. And if they are, make sure they have already been able to schedule their own appointment before making yours. 

This rule was created for a reason: to protect BIPOC individuals in the state. And while everyone benefits when the most people are vaccinated, your immunity should not leave your peers feeling used and disrespected. Get your shot. But don’t exploit your relationships with your BIPOC peers to get there. 

This editorial represents the opinions of the Middlebury Campus’ editorial board.