RICHMOND, Va. -- The first day of classes for the fall semester at VCU saw the number of students who had their registration placed on hold by the university for failing to comply with the school’s COVID vaccine mandate decline by more than 200 students.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on Monday nearly 1,500 students would not be allowed to change their schedule or register for classes if they had not yet shown documentation that they received a COVID-19 vaccine. By the start of classes Tuesday, a VCU official confirmed to CBS 6 that number had dropped to 1,271.
The official laid out these hypothetical scenarios for what would happen if a student continued to fail to provide proof of vaccination:
“Students who are already registered for classes will not be able to adjust their schedule until the requirement is met and the registration hold is lifted; students who have not yet registered, will not be able to register; students who have a registration hold will not be able to register for the spring 2022 semester. Registration holds will be lifted when a student submits their vaccination record or submits a request for a medical or religious exemption.”
As of Sunday, more than 90 percent of the 29,000 enrolled students this fall had already shown proof of vaccination and 4 percent were granted a medical or religious waiver. More than 86 percent of VCU employees had shown proof of vaccination.
VCU reinstated universal indoor masking for the fall semester and other COVID-19 guidelines, which can be found here.
The first day on the Monroe Park campus featured the traditional energy and buzz of the first day of college and many students were thankful to be back to in-person learning after spending the better part of the year taking courses online because of the pandemic.
“When I saw there was a concert and all these things going on, I was like, ‘oh, my god!’ I was actually excited to be on campus. I feel like a freshman again,” said Ariadna Perez, a sophomore at VCU.
“I’m just ready to be here. I’m tired of sitting at home on the computer hunched over all day, falling to sleep in class. It’s worth it,” said Kyonti Hill, a freshman.
With the highly contagious delta variant representing the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Virginia, many students felt the 90 percent vaccination rate provided a sense of comfort that semester would be closer to “normal,” even though health officials say rare breakthrough cases do occur.
“I worry a little because I don’t want to get shut down because I like being around campus, but I’m not too worried about it because everyone seems okay,” said student Janelle Pulley.
“People on social media were like: ‘uh.’ Lot of people not trying to get the vaccine. But for me, I’m just going to go ahead and get it. It’s like the flu shot to me basically,” said freshman Vincent Eroraha.
Perez and Hill met through a mutual friend, and Perez was helping Hill navigate a new city and college life. Educators have long worried about a learning gap with virtual schooling over the past year, and both said being on campus will serve as a spark.
“I just want school to be fun but also get stuff done. A lot of times last year, with everything online, I was doing the bare minimum to get by,” Hill said.
“I just really want to get excited to learn again,” Perez added.
VCU students who still need to get their vaccine can do so through University Student Health Services or local vaccination locations. You can find more information about vaccine access here.