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The SRU Challenge: Students Get COVID Vaccine, University President Gets Tattooed

William Behre, president of Slippery Rock University, is so passionate about increasing the COVID-19 vaccination rate at the school that he is prepared to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Or, more precisely, under his sleeve, right on his arm.

The University recently launched a campaign, “Rock the Shot, Ink the President” that will include various prize drawings for students based on rising campus COVID-19 vaccination rates. It culminates with Behre receiving a permanent Slippery Rock University-themed tattoo on his upper arm during an on-campus event if the student vaccination rate reaches the 75 percent threshold by Dec. 3 of this year.

“While I have to admit that getting a tattoo hasn’t exactly been a lifelong desire of mine, it would be a memorable—and permanent—way of making clear just how important I think it is for our students at Slippery Rock University to get fully vaccinated,” Behre said of what would be his first tattoo. “If getting a tattoo needle in my arm will inspire others to get the vaccine needle in theirs, then it will be well worth it.”

To stoke further interest, the tattoo design will be selected after a campus-wide contest that encourages students, faculty and staff to submit designs. Behre will select the finalists, which will be voted on by Slippery Rock University students and alumni.

“It’s going to on my body forever, so I should at least have a say in the design, right?” Behre laughed.

Behre believes he would be the first college president in the U.S. to demonstrate a commitment to increasing campus vaccination rates by offering to get a permanent tattoo to encourage students to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Schools across the country are offering all kinds of incentive programs to get students vaccinated, but how many presidents are putting their arms on the line?” he asked.

While inking the president would be the campaign’s most visible and longest-lasting prize, it is certainly not the only one on the line if various student vaccination rate goals are achieved. If Slippery Rock University’s student vaccination rate reaches 65 percent by Nov. 1, the school will hold a drawing that will award five students with assigned parking spots—in a lot of the student’s choosing—for the spring 2022 semester. Should the student vaccination rate reach 70 percent by Nov. 17, the University will hold a drawing for one student to win free tuition for the spring 2022 semester.

All Slippery Rock University undergraduate students who submit proof of the final recommended dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to the university’s Student Health Portal will automatically be entered into the vaccination prize drawings.

“The best way to remain in good health is to get vaccinated. I cannot require students to get vaccinated, but I can certainly urge everyone to get a vaccine,” Behre said. “With Rock the Shot, Ink the President, I think we can have some fun and raise awareness while helping to protect those on our campus and in the surrounding communities by increasing our student vaccination rate.”

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