NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (PIX11) — When classes resumed this week at the main campus of New Jersey’s largest university, 100 percent of students were vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s because they were required to be. Four months after the national public health emergency ended, Rutgers began its academic year with a vaccination requirement. While it appeared to be widely accepted, not everybody is pleased with the mandate.
“I guess it’s for our safety,” said Miranda Quiñones, a freshman. “I feel people should have a choice of whether to do it or not.”
Jenna Attia is also a student, who supports the mandate strongly.
“I think everyone should be [vaccinated],” she said. “It’s really good that it’s mandated. I think it should be.”
The university has three campuses — the flagship in New Brunswick, and two other large campuses, in Newark and Camden. The university administration said, in part, in a statement regarding the policy, “To support the health and safety for all members of the Rutgers community, the university includes the COVID-19 vaccine among immunization requirements for students.”
In other words, in addition to requiring vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B, Rutgers requires that its 67,000 students have COVID vaccinations.
Somya Velayudham, the parent of an incoming freshman, said she agreed with the policy.
“Here, they’re visiting multiple classes, or they don’t know what courses they’re in,” she said, explaining that students have many encounters with one another. “I feel it makes a lot of sense to have it mandated.”
Rutgers is a rare exception, though, in making COVID vaccinations mandatory. Of New Jersey’s 39 four-year colleges, only Rutgers and Montclair State have vaccination mandates. The latter only requires that its residential students be vaccinated, along with faculty and staff.
In New York, the state, after California, which has the highest number of colleges, PIX11 News could only find four with a COVID vaccination requirement: Bard College, the College of Mt. Saint Vincent, the Juilliard School, and Maria College of Albany.
Back at Rutgers, students like Zachary Elmeeti, who’s in the social work graduate school, said that the requirement was consistent with the university’s role as a research institution.
“Follow the science man,” he said. “Make it required. Who cares if certain people don’t agree?”
Tara Kim, a junior, and exchange student from South Korea, disagreed.
“I feel the pandemic is over,” she said. “I saw a lot of friends having side effects from the vaccines, so I don’t think it should be required.”
Agreeing with that point of view was a state senator who serves on the Joint Committee for Public Schools.
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon pulled no punches in describing how he feels about the vaccination mandate.
“The administrators are so stupid that they don’t understand the science, and perpetuate these policies,” said the state senator from Monmouth County.
He said that he’s been approached by at least two dozen Rutgers students who were not allowed to enroll because they’re not vaccinated.
“As long as the administrators are destroying the institution, we’re not gonna stop,” Sen. O’Scanlon said in an interview.
“It is idiotic policy, and it should be rescinded.”
He also said that he’d been contacted by donors to the university, who told him that they’ll no longer give to Rutgers as long as the policy remains in place.
O’Scanlon also said that some of the students who’d been denied the ability to register intend to pursue legal action against the university.