By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
As a sign of gratitude, Baylor will be giving vaccinated students a chance to win a series of weekly prizes and a small gift.
Every Friday for the next five weeks, starting Sept. 10, Baylor will be doing a lottery for a series of experiential prizes. Vaccinated students are automatically entered into the lottery for a chance to win suite access for a Baylor football game, a “park anywhere” pass valid for one year, a private dinner at the Baylor Club, all-access Homecoming ticket package or a private tour of the Bear Habitat. All of the prizes except for the parking pass are good for one student and three friends.
Additionally, all vaccinated students, whether on campus or not, will receive an email today with instructions on how to claim a small gift. Students can choose between a $12 Favor gift card or a “one-time only design” Baylor shirt, hat, mug or water bottle from Hole in the Roof — a Baylor alumni-owned custom apparel vendor.
Unvaccinated students who choose to get a vaccine will be automatically entered into the lottery and can claim their gifts after submitting their vaccination card.
Dr. Matt Burchett, senior director of Student Activities, said the university is excited about offering an opportunity to express gratitude to students who have chosen to get the vaccine.
“It takes all of us to protect our community against COVID-19,” Burchett said. “This is our expression of gratitude for those who have taken that particular step to help keep our community safe against COVID-19.”
Burchett said Baylor is hoping to bring back the sense of community that has been missing on campus the last year due to the pandemic. He said the many Baylor traditions and distinctive student experiences can only happen if the community is able to be kept healthy and safe.
“Being a part of a student organization, participating in the major campus traditions like running the line, Family Weekend, Homecoming or Christmas on 5th Street, those really mark distinctive moments in your Baylor career,” Burchett said. “As we enter into the fall semester, we are really hoping to rekindle and reestablish the traditions in the community and the connection that our students really cherish.”
Burchett compared the gifts to the $3 food vouchers that were given to students last year for getting their weekly COVID-19 tests. The money for the gifts comes from Baylor’s general operating funds, which are allocated to health and wellness initiatives on campus.
Burchett said the lottery and gifts are intended to show gratitude to students, and the gifts are also intended to put money back into the local Waco economy, which had suffered due to the pandemic.
“We love Waco,” Burchett said. “During the pandemic, our hearts broke for those restaurants, businesses and companies that make Waco such a special place to live and to study and to work. We did everything we possibly could to ensure that they survive financially.”
As the rising level of COVID-19 cases in McLennan County has filled local hospitals, other institutions in the area are offering rewards for getting a vaccine. Last week, McLennan Community College (MCC) announced they are offering students $200 to get the vaccine, with funding provided by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
Lisa Elliott, the director of Marketing and Communications at MCC, said the school is hoping the incentive will lead more students to get vaccinated.
“We do believe [vaccines] are the primary and best defense against COVID-19,” Elliott said. “They’re not required here, but we do strongly encourage our employees and our students to be vaccinated.”
Elliott said the current vaccination rate at MCC is 72% for students and 50% for faculty and staff. According to Baylor’s COVID-19 Dashboard, the university’s total vaccination rate is 72.9%, with 70.6% of students vaccinated and 84.7% of faculty and staff vaccinated.
Burchett said Baylor’s new program is unrelated to MCC’s incentives, as Baylor was unaware of MCC’s program when it began planning its own some time ago.
Burchett also stressed that Baylor does not want to “coerce” students into getting a vaccine; rather, it simply wants to say thank you to students who choose to get one.
“We do want them to know that if they have made that choice, that we are thankful,” Burchett said. “This is a different way to say thank you than how we have said before, but certainly, a continuation of work that had been long established and hopefully continues to resonate with our students as we find ways to be in this together.”