Rutgers Students Push Back on Vaccine Mandate

Evamarie Augustine

Not every Rutgers student is looking to get vaccinated.

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RutgersPhoto by Wikimedia.com

Rutgers students planned to protest this Friday, May 21, at the University's College Avenue Campus in New Brunswick to fight the mandate that they get the coronavirus vaccine in order to return to campus.

In April, Rutgers President Jonathan Hollaway shocked the school community by announcing that any student would need to be vaccinated to attend in the fall. Rutgers was the first school in the country to mandate the vaccine.

Students and parents expressed their anger against being required to get a vaccine, with many expressing concerns over both health issues as well as personal choice. Opponents of the vaccine claim the mandate infringes on personal choice, and it especially targets lower-income students who have no other choice but to attend the state university. On the opposite side are those who claim Rutgers is putting safety first and that this will provide a faster way to return to "normal."

Rutgers has claimed that it is attempting to create a safe campus environment. However, the school was not mandating the vaccine for professors and administration—only for students. Instead, professors and office staff are being strongly encouraged to take the vaccine.

Since Rutgers first announced it would mandate the vaccine, Harvard, Notre Dame, NYU, Columbia and every other college in New Jersey, including Princeton, has followed Holloway's lead. A few, but not many, colleges require professors be vaccinated, as well.

All three coronavirus vaccines have been highly researched and approved under "emergency-use authorization" by the Food & Drug Administration. They have also been deemed safe by both the CDC and FDA. All the vaccines have shown effective at preventing serious illness and death from coronavirus.

The school spoke of a return to a pre-pandemic normal on campuses, with a return of on-campus events and activities as well as increased in-person course offerings. Rutgers has received approval from the State of New Jersey to administer vaccines on campus to faculty, staff, and students once vaccine supplies are available to the university.

State Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R), who represents New Jersey's 13th Legislative district, plans to be at the rally. She has tried to introduce legislation against the state school, as a school that takes state funding cannot mandate a vaccine. State Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger (Republican-Monmouth), a vocal critic of masks and lockdowns, is also planning on attending.

Can the school force students to get the vaccine? The school will allow exemptions for medical or religious reasons. But it faces a battle. While a public institution may require immunizations, the three vaccines have only received emergency authorization from the FDA—in other words, they are not formally approved. This is an issue that has not been tested in the courts, so the outcome is unknown, particularly since the long-term effects of the vaccine remain unknown.

The protest against the vaccine mandate will be at 10 a.m. this Friday, May 21 in front of 11 Brower Hall, on College Avenue.

While Democratic Governor Phil Murphy has said he supports the Rutgers vaccine mandate for students, Republican governor front-runner Jack Ciattarelli said he does not support the mandate, nor does he want New Jersey to make the COVID vaccine mandatory for K-12 students as a condition of their return to in-person learning this September; Gov. Murphy said this week all schools must be back to in-person learning this fall. Remote learning will not be an option for any student.

Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey is New Jersey's largest public college. The school is spread out across the city of New Brunswick with several distinct campuses.

For the 2019 school year, over 50,000 students were registered at the D1 school in its three regional campuses: Rutgers–Camden, Rutgers–Newark, and Rutgers–New Brunswick. Rutgers–New Brunswick Campus is considered the main campus and comprises five smaller campuses (Busch, College Avenue, Cook, Douglass, and Livingston) that are located within the cities of New Brunswick and Piscataway.

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