Delayed Starts & Booster Mandates: A Mixed B-School Response To The ‘Omicron Semester’

Students of the Kelley School of Business accounting department at a retreat. Kelley started the spring semester in-person as scheduled.

Students of the Kelley School of Business accounting department at a retreat. Kelley started the spring semester in-person as scheduled. (Courtesy photo)


Seven schools in our analysis neither delayed their start dates nor switched to online learning. Indiana University, home of the Kelley School of Business, announced in mid-December that it would forge ahead with in-person instruction, research, and other activities. Classes began as scheduled on January 10.

“While cases are up right now with the current surge Indiana and the nation are experiencing, we feel confident our policies will allow us to continue in-person instruction this semester throughout IU. In large part that is because of our vaccination requirement, which right now has resulted in a 95% vaccination rate among students, faculty, and staff on the Bloomington campus,” Chuck Carney, IU director of media relations, tells Poets&Quants.

“Because of that vaccination rate, we don’t expect we would have to pivot to online again, but there is no one particular thing that would trigger such a move. In any case, we would consider a variety of things before making such a decision, but consider that quite unlikely given that our campuses are generally safer than the rest of the state given the vaccination rate. We have virtually no evidence that classroom transmission has been an issue, so moving to online would not necessarily offer more safety.”

While IU, and thus Kelley, does not require COVID booster shots, it does offer a $20 credit on its Crimson Card for any student who uploads proof of receiving a booster. It also requires masks indoors. On its COVID-19 FAQ site, the schools that all IU campuses are returning to pre-pandemic activities in most cases. “We understand many of our students want that traditional college experience — in-person classes, seeing their friends on and around campus, going to athletic and other events, and simply being part of the IU community.”


Like Rice Jones, other schools are also looking beyond this omicron pause to life with coronavirus on their campuses. Now, with vaccines and boosters that are highly effective at preventing serious disease, more administrators, students, and faculty are looking at the balance between the traditional in-person experience and trying to avoid illness (which is often mild in college-age students) at all costs.

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School begain the spring semester with online learning. When it returns to in-person on January 31, it plans to begin a new phase of COVID-19 management.  Emory photo

Take Emory University and Goizueta Business School. “As we prepare for the return on January 31, we know that our community is at an inflection point in the pandemic. Given what we have learned from omicron, along with the effective vaccine interventions already in place, Emory will move into its next phase of COVID-19 response,” Amir St. Clair, Emory associate vice president and executive director for COVID-19 response and recovery, wrote in a statement to P&Q

That means the school will do what it can to prevent infection – indoor masking, shifting to a self-service model for contract tracing, and requiring vaccines and boosters for all in the community. But it will also default to face-to-face classrooms and other research and activities essential to the university experience.

The school reports that 98% of its students and 97% of staff are vaccinated. While they reported 131 new students and 73 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days, it is, a sharp decline from the previous week. (See chart below showing the 7-day-moving average of new COVID-19 cases for students and faculty/staff. Note the sharp decline from the high on January 11.)

Emory University's 7-day rolling average of new COVID cases

Emory University’s 7-day rolling average of new COVID cases, from its COVD-19 dashboard.

“We remain focused on our objectives of limiting transmission, reducing severity of illness, protecting the most vulnerable, and promoting a vibrant campus experience,” Amir St. Clair tells P&Q.

“At the same time, we know our COVID-19 strategy must evolve to better respond to the most immediate needs, while also advancing our academic and research mission. Thus, Emory will begin taking important steps to shift our protocols and minimize future COVID-19 disruptions by empowering more personal accountability.”


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