Montclair State University President Susan Cole announced via email on Thursday, April 22, that the university will require all students to be vaccinated for coronavirus (COVID-19) for the fall semester.
The mandate requires all students to be vaccinated, except for those who are enrolled in fully remote degree programs or with religious and medical exemptions in accordance with New Jersey law.
Montclair State is among the first few colleges in New Jersey to require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus, along with Rutgers University, Princeton University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Stevens Institute of Technology. However, according to nj.com, Stevens is the first to require students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated for the fall semester.
In the email, President Cole stated that employees and staff are not yet mandated to get vaccinated.
“The university cannot at this time mandate that employees get vaccinated,” Cole said. “However, we continue strongly to urge every faculty and staff member to do so and a large number of our employees have already done so.”
Cezanne Bies, a senior geography major, believes faculty not being required to get the vaccine is concerning.
“Even if the vaccination was applied to all student body on campus, there is nothing preventing a minor outbreak amongst staff,” Bies said. “If the school wishes to make it mandatory they should apply this to all of the population or none.”
Bies was last on campus on Feb. 9 and said they have not returned since due to the pandemic. While they are expected to receive their second dose next week, they do not plan on returning to campus immediately.
“Because of the uncertainty of the virus, I will be doing my master’s program for sustainability online, however, I may pop in once or twice to say hi,” Bies said.
“Vaccination requirements are hardly uncommon, as all students had to be vaccinated with MMR, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B,” Bies said. “However, as this is a global pandemic, if the school makes COVID[-19] vaccinations a requirement, they should also be responsible in providing said vaccination location on campus that can adequately provide vaccinations to all of those enrolled on campus.”
On April 16, Vice President of Student Development and Campus Life Dr. Dawn Meza Soufleris said in an email to campus residents that a shuttle service would be available to students who wished to get vaccinated. The first one was on April 21, and took students to the Livingston Mall vaccination center. This same service was also available to students on Friday, April 23.
Geraldy Wang, a senior medical humanities and public and professional writing major, has mixed feelings about this announcement.
“My thoughts on Montclair State’s latest announcement about the mandatory vaccines for the students are a bit bittersweet,” Wang said. “On one hand, I am very happy about the fact that Montclair State University has finally started addressing some of the concerns about COVID-19.”
Wang, who is minoring in biology, a former nurse and case investigator, knows firsthand how volatile this topic can be.
“I am sure that there are people with a different opinion about the need for everyone to have the vaccine, but the reality is that this is a very real and very dangerous space to get into an argument with anyone,” Wang said.
Wang is cautious about returning back to campus.
“I have not come to campus since the start of the pandemic and I even plan to not walk despite being fully vaccinated,” Wang said. “I will probably be forced to come to campus in the fall for graduate school, but as much as possible I try to limit my time in crowded locations.”
According to Cole’s announcement, “Already, nearly 4,000 of you have reported on Hawk Check that you have received at least one dose.”
Kaelyn Casallas, a junior public and professional writing major, is in full support of this announcement.
“I strongly support Montclair State University requiring all students to be vaccinated in order to return back to campus,” Casallas said. “In fact, I don’t think they should wait until fall to implement the vaccination rule, why not make it mandatory for taking summer classes on campus as well? As someone who’s taking summer classes, I would definitely feel more comfortable with them enforcing the rule earlier.”
After Casallas’ grandfather passed away due to COVID-19, she has not returned to campus.
“My grandfather passed away from [COVID-19] so my parents forbade me from going on campus so I wouldn’t expose my grandmother who lives with us to the virus,” Casallas said.
Casallas, who is fully vaccinated along with her family, is planning on returning to campus eventually. Her only hope is that faculty and staff be required to get the vaccine too.
“If we’re expected to resort back to in-person learning and come in contact with the [employees], then why shouldn’t they get vaccinated as well?,” Casallas said. “I really don’t understand the logic behind that particular rule, but hopefully, they change that in the near future.”
Marlee Kaplan, a graduate student in the speech pathology program, is in her second semester at Montclair State and has only been enrolled in online classes thus far. She agrees with the push to get students vaccinated.
“I think it’s really important that everyone is vaccinated because I just don’t think you can take the next step to have in-person classes and people dorm if the majority of people are not vaccinated,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan believes faculty and staff should also be required to be vaccinated, as she did not approve when the news came to her.
“I don’t like that,” Kaplan said. “I think they’re on campus, as much as some other students as well, if not more. Those that are commuting — they’re seeing multiple classes, multiple people and it should definitely be a requirement. I think not only for the safety of faculty but also for the safety of the students. It’s kind of hypocritical, I think, to make students do it and not your faculty and your staff.”
Kaplan is in favor of Montclair State providing the COVID-19 vaccine on campus.
“The more we create possibilities and opportunities to get the vaccine, the more people will get it,” Kaplan said. “It’s awesome that Montclair [State] is doing that. It’s very convenient, especially for those that maybe are not able to get it at home, like those resources aren’t as readily available for them.”
Montclair State students and employees will be able to get the vaccine offered on campus on April 27 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Students are advised to be on the lookout for more information regarding this service.