Students with religious exemptions banned from dormitory starting this summer
Montclair State University has announced that students with religious exemptions to the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine will no longer be allowed to live on campus starting this summer.
Students with religious exemptions are expressing dissatisfaction with the new policy. Jared Vigil, a molecular biology major, said he had a religious exemption because he disagreed with the use of aborted fetal cells in testing or developing and producing COVID-19 vaccines. He sees politics as religious discrimination.
“There’s really no other way to put it,” Vigil said. “This specifically targets people with religious exemptions in an effort to further coerce my classmates of religious faith.”
Vigil remains hopeful that students with religious exemptions will be able to convince the university to change the restriction.
“Religious persecution has happened many times throughout history and I hope this will be another time when we as a religious community can prevail,” Vigil said.
A sophomore animation/illustration student who chose to remain anonymous said she was a Christian who received a religious exemption because she believed in abstaining from any substance that defiles the body of any way. She said the policy would make it harder for her to get on campus.
“It affects me immensely as someone who can’t drive, has no car, and no family available to take me back and forth,” the student said. “I live 35 [to] 40 [minutes] far and have no way of getting here otherwise. I have lived on campus for the past two years with no problem. [I have] has been tested weekly since it became a requirement. As a junior coming in here it’s redundant that this is only set up now [and] on such short notice, too. We were given no warning. »
A poll of 136 participants by The Montclarion showed that 40% were in favor of the new rule, while 60% were not in favor.
Andrew Mees, the university’s spokesman, said the policy is not religious discrimination.
“We are committed to being an inclusive community where all members feel able and safe enough to practice their faith, and nothing in this policy prevents any member of the community from doing so,” Mees said.
Mees also explained the reasoning behind the policy.
“Previously, we allowed students who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to live on campus, but required them to occupy a single room – often by converting a double room into a single room,” Mees said. “Now, as the demand for accommodation has increased, the university needs to free up more space. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, students eligible for a medical exemption may reside on campus in the fall and will be assigned single rooms. There is no such legislation that applies to people with religious exemptions.
Mees stressed the importance of protecting public health on campus.
“Although living on campus is a highly desired and positive experience for students, it is a privilege and not a guaranteed right,” Mees said. “In order to access this privilege, and to help protect public health, a student must have all required vaccinations, including being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they have a medical exemption. if they want to live in on-campus accommodation. .”
Mees said the restriction will improve the residential experience.
“Because there will be fewer unvaccinated people in residence halls, we will be able to lift things like the visiting policy and the guest policy, creating a more pleasant and traditional experience for resident students,” Mees said. .
According to Mees, 146 students applied for a religious exemption this semester and 131 students obtained the exemption. Students who will no longer be able to live on campus represent 1.3% of the residential population.
Marc Hernandez, a young specialist in the food system, is indifferent to the new policy. He thinks there should be some leeway for religious exemptions, although some people, who just don’t want the vaccine, take advantage of the exception.
“I feel like they’re ruining it because people actually have these religious ideals, and I don’t think it’s fair for them or for the school because the people who benefit from it are the people who do the party and spread the virus, and make everyone in the dorms sick,” Hernandez said.
Other students who received the vaccine sided with those with religious exemptions.
Tammy Cheng, a sophomore in psychology, said she did not support the university’s new policy.
“I just think it’s so ridiculous that the school threatens the students,” Cheng said. “It’s like asking someone to choose between [their] religion or a vaccine.
Joshua Almanzar, a junior exercise science student, shared similar sentiments.
“For a campus that talks about inclusivity, that’s pretty exclusive,” Almanzar said. “I’m a person who is still looking for his own religion, in all honesty, so I have no problem with anyone else’s religion.”
Nyla White, a second-year communications and media studies student, said she strongly disagreed with the restriction.
“I feel like it comes down to basics, like it’s just discrimination at this point,” White said.
White added that she doesn’t think the policy will impact campus health and safety.
“If it’s safety that’s in question, well, if you do the statistics, I think more people on campus are actually being vaccinated,” White said. “And if vaccination with booster shots proves to protect people, then the number of people vaccinated with booster shots should outweigh the number of people who benefit from these religious exemptions.”