Who counts as a trespasser on Colorado State’s campus?

Explore how Plaza speakers and Colorado State University athletics fans are left out of the COVID-19 vaccine requirements and why.

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(Graphic Illustration by Jessie Conlisk | The Collegian)

Kota Babcock and Ivy Secrest

Understanding the role of vaccines in on-campus life has confused students, staff and the local community, especially after Colorado State University sent no trespass orders to students in October related to COVID-19 vaccine submissions or lack thereof. As students navigate vaccine submissions and exemption requests, some campus community members noticed a lack of expectations placed on people on campus that aren’t affiliated with CSU. 

Nik Olsen, assistant chief of staff for communications and outreach for CSU’s Office of the President, confirmed the vaccine requirements only apply to on-campus students and staff, with some exceptions for contract employees. This means that Plaza speakers, classroom guest speakers and athletic event patrons do not have to follow the same policies. 

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Students have voiced their confusion around the expectations of the University; however, the University’s official standpoint is that the no trespass notice was misconstrued by the media, and several detailed emails were sent to instruct students on how to submit their vaccination status. 

One student involved in this confusion, Dillon Hinners, said they received the letter unexpectedly. Hinners spoke to CTV Reporter Natalie Devereaux and said, “I’m not standing up for something bigger, … I just didn’t know about it.”

Many of the vocal critics of vaccine policies include Plaza speakers, which adds a new layer to the potential of charging them with trespassing if CSU does choose to require vaccine information from all visitors. Since these individuals use The Plaza as a free-speech haven or a place to explain their religious values, would CSU charging them amount to some level of silencing?

Elizabeth Sink, master instructor of communication studies at CSU, said charging speakers with trespassing would end up being a difficult battle. With a variety of people frequenting CSU’s campus without affiliation, this might end up unfairly targeting the most visible opponents rather than those most frequently violating policies.

“Because we don’t have a gated community on campus, people from the community can walk through, and we don’t check them,” Sink said. “I don’t think CSU should serve them with trespassing orders because we’re not doing that on an equal basis with community members just walking through.”

Though charging speakers on The Plaza is potentially unachievable due to public access, that doesn’t fully explain the lack of equal enforcement in other aspects of on-campus life. While CSU focuses on unvaccinated students, visitors make up a significant portion of people with unknown vaccine statuses on campus. 

According to a statement released by the University on Oct. 11, 2021, over 900 of the 1,325 students contacted reported their status, and the majority of those students were vaccinated. 

Targeting Plaza speakers exclusively, especially considering that many of them come on campus to speak on their religion, could create additional issues. In many ways, it would also ignore the larger issue of how CSU’s sporting events include many more unmasked, unaffiliated people than The Plaza. 

Students clap and cheer during a Colorado State basketball game.
Students clap and cheer during a Colorado State University basketball game, most without masks, Feb. 4. (Collegian | Devin Cornelius)

Masks are required in classes and presumably at games; however, often this policy is not enforced, even at indoor games. Outside members of the community aren’t required to demonstrate any form of COVID-19 safety, whether it be a negative test or proof of vaccination. 

Introducing this requirement would not impede on personal choices and freedom related to vaccines but would promote safer experiences for all attendees. It would also show a shared sense of commitment to public safety among all sports attendees and the University community alike. 

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Students can learn more about the University’s COVID-19 policies at covid.colostate.edu.

Reach Kota Babcock and Ivy Secrest at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @KotaBabcock and @IvySecrest.