Campus reactions to the vaccine requirements

Although the university faces another academic year guided by COVID-19 policies, it is not as exhaustive as those seen in 2020.

On June 16, the university announced that all students, faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated before returning to campus. According to the COVID-19 vaccination information website, “more than 475 colleges and universities across the country – including many of our peer institutions in Connecticut – have implemented this policy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on their campuses.”

With vaccine mandates being compared to my body, my choice, even here in the Hartford area, it was expected that this policy could go one of two ways: the university community could graciously adopt it, or it could cause an uproar. Seemingly the former reigns true, given that as of Aug. 10 the campus reached a 90% vaccination rate.

Perhaps the lack of pushback to this policy is due to the option of an exemption form. This form is available for students who hold “medical contraindication reasons or for religious or other strongly-held personal beliefs” that deter them from receiving the immunization.

While exemptions were available on a case-by-case basis, the policies for unvaccinated individuals differ from those vaccinated. Exempt individuals must always wear masks in all indoor and outdoor campus locations, are not permitted on off-campus travel events and receive weekly COVID-19 tests.

Students shared their thoughts on the vaccine mandate and exemption form in a poll on The Charger Bulletin’s website. Eight out of 17 students strongly agreed and seven agreed with the mandate. Conversely, one in 17 students indicated they were neutral or disagreed, and none strongly disagreed.

“What they are doing is smart, because it provides a safety net,” said sophomore forensic science major Katie Ehrick.

Olivia Campanelli, senior forensic science major, shared this view, saying “it makes me feel a lot more comfortable to be on campus, it is almost kind of scary in terms of who you can trust not to get you sick.” She also said that it made her feel more certain about her own safety.

When specifically speaking about access to the exemption form, Campanelli said, “I like that they made it a mandate, because I personally feel safer, but I also like that they have that option.”

Now that there are no event restrictions and campus dining and classrooms are at full capacity, the vaccination policy has brought back a relieving sense of normalcy for students like sophomore forensic science major, Soleyl Gonzalez.

“I am a sophomore, which means I spent my first year here with the virus,” she said. “I feel like it is really cool that we are going back to normal.”

Ashley Price, senior criminal justice major, shared similar enthusiasm towards what this academic year holds, saying that she is excited to have more events on campus this year.

“I was happy to hear that the campus was 90% vaccinated before we moved back to campus. I feel safe knowing that our campus is taking the pandemic seriously,” she said.

Even with only the first few weeks underway the Charger Community of Care Pledge is set into full gear and seems to be setting up the semester for success.