Westmont panel discusses COVID-19 vaccine

Students+gather+on+the+DC+lawn+during+Conversations+That+Matter+panel

Ethan Vaughan, The Horizon

Students gather on the DC lawn during “Conversations That Matter” panel

Willow Martin, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, the Westmont community gathered together on the DC lawn to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine. A panel of three professors — Dr. See, Dr. Everest, and Dr. Richter — affirmed the vaccine. The discussion brought forward panelist and student thoughts regarding the contribution of faith and science to moral arguments about the importance of vaccination.

The event was part of a series called “Conversations That Matter,” which is run by the Westmont College Student Association (WCSA) and aims to engage with the Westmont community on difficult topics.

WCSA vice president Hans Khoe organized and mediated the event. He acknowledged the importance of the conversation, saying, “We wanted to look at the relationship between science and faith because it’s important to understand not just what the scientific data says, but also to realize how religion plays a part in our decision to get vaccinated or not.”

Dr. Ronald E. See, professor of psychology and neuroscience, encouraged listeners to “embrace the science,” explaining that the scientific community fully accepts the vaccine.

 Dr. Michael Everest, a professor of chemistry, did not express the same level of enthusiasm, but expressed gratitude for the vaccine nonetheless. “Scientists don’t always get everything right the first time … Praise God that he’s given us the tools and brains to come up with anything like this.” 

Due to the professors’ positive opinions toward the vaccines, some students wondered whether the purpose of the panel was to advertise the free vaccination clinic happening simultaneously on campus.

Political science major and openly unvaccinated student Audrey Whittle represents some students skeptical of the event. She stated, “The intention was great and I stand by everything [the panel] said, but it was disappointing in that it felt like there was a clear agenda: to vaccinate the student body.” 

She continued, “I think that loving your neighbor as Jesus commands does not require that we get vaccinated. If the greatest hurdle to loving others is not getting the vaccine, we are missing the point.”

Khoe addressed this concern, saying, “Our objectives were to allow people to hear one another’s opinions without judgement and to follow up such a conversation with the opportunity for students to get vaccinated if they wanted to the following Thursday.”

Whittle made it clear that she appreciated that the conversation had a place on campus. “I think it’s an important conversation to have because of the expansive impact that the vaccine is having on our country,” she observed. “They didn’t brush the tension under the rug, but instead rather attempted to address it in an atmosphere where students of every opinion could come and seek answers.”

Khoe intended for the event to begin an ongoing conversation at Westmont. “Our campus has many great resources, ranging from the biology department, to Jason Tavarez, to members of WCSA who would be happy to have a conversation or refer you to someone. Let’s keep this conversation going because COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon.”

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