Editorial Roundup: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. August 9, 2021.

Editorial: A welcome pivot on U’s vaccine policy

The University of Minnesota finally decides to require shots. Minnesota State must follow suit.

Joan Gabel, president of the University of Minnesota, outside Coffman Memorial Union in 2020. Gabel said Monday that the new vaccination requirement at the U is “pending shared governance consultations and Board of Regents approval.”

University of Minnesota officials waited longer than they should have to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students this fall. But they took the right step with Monday’s announcement that the vaccine will be added to the list of routine immunizations required for students to attend its five statewide campuses.

With the highly transmissible delta variant driving cases, this move is eminently sensible. Higher vaccination rates will speed the pandemic’s end, keep outbreaks from canceling future classes and events, and protect those who are immunized and everyone around them.

While young, healthy people aren’t at high risk for severe COVID, their risk is not zero. Long-term effects of even mild COVID infections also remain unknown.

All of these reasons are why the 54-campus Minnesota State system also should require the COVID vaccine this fall. As of Monday, Minnesota State is continuing to strongly encourage vaccination but not require it, a spokesman said. That’s inadequate.

The U’s new student requirement is conditional on full approval of the COVID vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Right now, the shots available from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are in use through the agency’s emergency authorization authority.

Ideally, the U’s requirement would have been launched without this contingency. Still, the decision is still likely to spur returning students if they haven’t gotten the shots yet.

Full approval for the Pfizer vaccine could come by the end of August, according to a statement made over the weekend by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Knowing this is on the near horizon, students and their families are likely to get the COVID vaccination before heading back to class instead of scrambling to do so when the FDA acts.

The U’s decision applies to students at campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and the Twin Cities. Enrollment at the five locations is about 67,000. An e-mail from university President Joan Gabel also noted that the new requirement is “pending shared governance consultations and Board of Regents approval.”

The governing board shouldn’t hesitate to approve this. The U’s policy is sound. It’s also stronger than many other institutions’ because it closes a loophole that would allow students to opt out of the COVID vaccine for non-medical reasons. The U has a separate policy requiring vaccination or testing for staff.

Nationally, 675 campuses have requirements in place for students or staff, according to a list tabulated by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Minnesota’s leading private colleges merit praise for already enacting mandates. The U shouldn’t have been a late addition to this list, but its inclusion is welcome.

The Minnesota State’s system of 30 colleges and seven universities needs to do more than encourage vaccination. Much of this system serves rural areas, where vaccination often lags. A requirement is in the best interest of the students and state this system serves.

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Mankato Free Press. August 6, 2021.

Editorial: Justice: Wrongful conviction program needed

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has taken another step toward reforming justice in Minnesota with the establishment of a conviction review unit to investigate potential wrongful felony convictions.

The office will review felony convictions where petitioners have plausible arguments for innocence, particularly in cases of eyewitness testimony or testimony that was later recanted or thrown out.

The program grew from a collaboration between the attorney general’s office and the Great North Innocence Project that was funded by an initial federal grant of $300,000 for two years.

The program will not only seek to investigate likely wrongful convictions but also suggest policy changes for courts and the justice system to prevent wrongful convictions from happening again.

While Ellison did not emphasize a racial justice element to the new program, it will likely play a big role in overturning convictions of people of color and others who’ve been wrongly convicted and otherwise discriminated against. There are plenty of examples through history of Blacks and other people of color being wrongly convicted and spending years in prison.

It’s a good sign to see Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi backing the new effort and supporting it by membership on its advisory board which will establish its charter. The 17-member advisory board includes other experts in law, academia and social justice issues.

The program will be run by well-qualified Assistant Attorney General Carrie Sperling, who has been involved in innocence projects at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas law schools. She also managed the Arizona Justice Project as one of the first collaborations between innocence projects and attorney generals offices.

The set up in Minnesota is one of only four of its kind in the United States that operates statewide through an attorney general’s office.

We have little doubt that the program will find plenty of people to exonerate throughout the state. Justice and the court system is far from perfect. It has built-in biases, just as juries have built-in biases. It’s time Minnesota took time to examine the principle by which we must live: Equal justice under the law.

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Albert Lea Tribune. August 10, 2021.

Editorial: Take a break, sit down and enjoy reading a book

Tuesday was National Book Lovers Day, and we can’t help but take a few minutes to tout the importance of reading.

Though life in today’s world is busy with all kinds of opportunities, we encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day to pick up a book.

Don’t think you have time to read? Apparently you’re not alone. According to the National Book Lovers Day website, 24% of Americans had not read a book in 2018.

Though there are many things to compete for your time, we encourage you to schedule it into your day. We think you’ll be interested to see how much you enjoy it and how much you look forward to that time each day.

Reading has many benefits, including stress reduction, stronger analytical thinking skills and even memory improvement — not to mention it can help you gain knowledge.

Reading can expand your vocabulary and improve your focus. Just like it is important to take part in exercises such as walking and running to keep our bodies strong, reading can help keep our brains strong.

This day and age books can be found in their traditional paperback or hardcover formats or even on electronic devices if you prefer.

Of course one of the best resources about books in our own community is the Albert Lea Public Library. Whether you’re young or old doesn’t matter. There is a book for every age, and many are timeless.

The library is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays for no contact pickups.

We leave you with a quote from the famous American children’s author known as Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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