UW System housing: COVID vaccination roommate concern arises

An incoming freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is breathing a sigh of relief after finally connecting with someone to room with who is vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, there aren't many options out there for students in the UW System who wish to room with someone who is also vaccinated.

Students will start to move in at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in about two weeks. But because the UW System does not require COVID-19 vaccinations, or track them as part of housing; it's possible that vaccinated students may end up with unvaccinated roommates.

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Tayten Sanderson, an incoming UW-Madison freshman, said he decided to find someone to room with at Madison this fall, so he turned to a class Facebook group – only to find out last week that his roommate would not be getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I can’t imagine I’m alone," said Sanderson. "I have people that I would be seeing often that I don’t want to get sick, and I don’t want to be the cause of that because I came and brought something back from Madison, because there were cases running rampant because people weren’t vaccinated."

Tayten Sanderson

The 17-year-old Nicolet High School graduate was in a bind: Live in close quarters with an unvaccinated roommate, try to find someone to swap with or hope for a room change after the start of the semester.

"Because they can’t mandate vaccines, that’s the whole reason I’m in this situation. This never would have occurred if vaccines were mandatory in Madison, like at a lot of other schools it is," Sanderson said, like Marquette University or some Big Ten schools.

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COVID-19 vaccine

UW-Madison and UW System schools are highly encouraging but not mandating vaccines. Non-vaccination students are required to undergo weekly testing.

A UW-Madison spokesperson said eight out of 10 residence hall students are fully vaccinating, a number that is growing, but understands the potential conflict if roommates have differing views on vaccination.

In those instances, students who are unable to resolve conflicts, students may have the option to move to a different room where possible as openings become available.

UW-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Since talking with FOX6 News, Sanderson was able to find someone who is vaccinated to switch with.

"It’s something that should be mandatory," Sanderson said.

In July, the UW System announced a student vaccination incentive program on all campuses, except for UW-Madison, trying to get vaccination rates up to 70%.

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