University policies regarding mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for students receive mixed reactions
June 1, 2021
By Emily Gabriel
I definitely do not want to attend a college that’s making me get the vaccine, thought Senior Tyler Laski as his college enrollment deadlines were approaching. Laski immediately dismissed one of his top choices, Rutgers University-New Brunswick for that very reason, but he had no need to worry because the University of Delaware would not be requiring the vaccine… or so he thought.
On March 25, Rutgers University became the first large university in the United States, and possibly the first college of any size in the country, to initiate a Covid-19 vaccine requirement. Since then, many other colleges and universities, including UD, have followed suit.
EDITORIAL CARTOON BY MARIA GAMEZ Rutgers University announced on March 25 that it will be requiring all students to be vaccinated before arriving on campus for the fall semester.
On May 5, only days after Laski had committed to UD, the university sent out a message to all students who will be on campus in the fall explaining that they would have to be vaccinated.
Laski, who intends to major in mechanical engineering, said he was shocked and upset to learn the news.
“I had thought that UD was safe from the requirements, but I was proven wrong,” Laski said.
Most colleges already require students to be vaccinated against viral diseases, but since the Covid-19 vaccine is relatively new and does not yet have full FDA approval, Laski said it should not be mandated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are monitoring systems in place to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are safe, but Laski said he is still unconvinced that it won’t be dangerous in the long run.
“I’m glad those monitoring systems are in place, but they do not make me feel much safer at the moment. I still would like to wait to see what happens to everyone else before I ever get vaccinated,” Laski said.
He said he does not plan on receiving the vaccine even though UD requires it. Concerned about the long-term side effects of getting vaccinated, Laski said he is not sure what he will do if UD has not reversed its policy by August, when he is set to arrive on campus. Nonetheless, Laski said he likes UD and has already committed, so he has no intention of reversing course and attending another school instead.
While UD students will be required to get vaccinated, professors are not.
According to a Frequently Asked Questions page on UDel’s website, “The close living arrangements and study and social behaviors of most college students present an elevated risk for continued spread of the coronavirus…. While UD Human Resources welcomes self-reported vaccination status from all faculty and staff, we recognize certain provisions apply to UD employees associated with various workforce groups, prohibiting universal requirements of this nature.”
Laski said it doesn’t matter to him whether or not his professors are vaccinated.
“Just as long as they are not showing severe symptoms, then I will feel comfortable around them,” Laski said.
Senior Bianca Palestis, who will be studying psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said she fully supports mandatory Covid-19 vaccines requirements for students.
“Being vaccinated is a good idea for me and anyone moving away from home because you will be in an unfamiliar place with people you don’t know. It is almost like having a security blanket of one more thing that can keep you even safer,” Palestis said.
She said she was excited when UMass announced in April that its students would be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine before arriving on campus for the fall semester. Palestis received her vaccination that same month to keep herself and others protected.
“I saw the vaccine as a chance for me to finally do something to stop the spread of Covid rather than just wearing a mask and social distancing. I trust science and this vaccine was a true scientific breakthrough,” Palestis said.
While Palestis said she supports the vaccine, she said it did not play a role in her college decision-making process.
“I have already lived through part of the pandemic without a vaccine. I would be more nervous [going to a school that didn’t require the Covid-19 vaccine], but I feel like I could still be responsible and stay as healthy as possible,” Palestis said.
Like Palestis, senior Jamie Tellefsen said the vaccination policies of her prospective colleges did not influence her decision about what school to attend.
In July, she will be heading to Tampa, Florida to begin studying at the University of South Florida where she intends to major in exercise science.
USF encourages, but does not require, its students to receive the vaccine. Nonetheless, Tellefsen said she plans on getting vaccinated after she arrives on campus.
“I would like to be vaccinated so I can do my part to help stop the spread of Covid-19. I do think that being vaccinated would be a good idea since I would not have to worry as much about catching Covid when in a large social gathering,” Tellefsen said.
Tellefsen said she appreciates that USF is giving students the option because getting vaccinated is an individual decision.
Mrs. Nowinski, the school nurse, also said college students should have the right to make their own decision when it comes to getting vaccinated.
“I feel that each individual should do what they believe to be right for them,” Nowinski said. “Professionally, I am not against vaccines. Vaccines are good. This particular vaccine in my opinion was put out too soon, lacking the time and research that was needed to assure the safety of its receivers,” Nowinski said.
The development of the Covid-19 vaccine was substantially faster than other vaccines which can take up to 10-15 years to create.
Math teacher Mr. Carucci, who has taught classes at the County College of Morris, said he would not mind interacting in-person with his college students who are not vaccinated this upcoming semester.
“I feel comfortable because I live a healthy lifestyle and take care of myself, which I’m sure has strengthened my immune system,” Carucci said.
He said he is optimistic about the 2021-2022 academic year and the in-person classes that will take place.
“[Studying remotely,] you don’t really get that same experience of forming relationships with your peers in the same program as you, participating in different events [at] the college, [or] going to sporting contests,” said Carucci.