Students divided over UWC vaccination policy

UWC students and staff will not be allowed on campus next year unless they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

A new UWC policy that requires students and staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to be on campus next year has drawn a mixed response.

All staff and students must be vaccinated if they want to enter the campus or attend university events, according to the policy, which was approved on Thursday November 29.

“Students who are not vaccinated will be permitted to register for their relevant degree or module but may not enter campus or attend university events. This rule will also be strictly applied to the placement of students at all UWC residences,” said UWC spokeswoman Harriet Box.

Unvaccinated students in most faculties can continue their studies virtually, according to UWC marketing manager Gasant Abarder.

However, for students in certain faculties, including dentistry, pharmacy and nursing, the policy is more stringent: they must be vaccinated to register.

Northern News spoke to several students about the new policy, but none was prepared to have their names published.

For one BCom student, most of the policy’s stipulations were fair as long as they applied to both staff and students.

“As I’ve been vaccinated outside of university, I feel that prevention is always best, especially if you live a lifestyle where you interact with a lot of people within a week span. So that would apply to university life,” he said

“Students often interact with each other, and in order to contain the spread of the virus I agree that vaccinated students should be the ones that are allowed to come back.”

He added that unvaccinated students would feel safer studying from home without worrying that they had caught the virus.

A computer science student felt that unvaccinated students were being dealt a bad hand.

“Is it fair for the university to deny access to students who aren’t vaccinated? No. And what about the livelihoods of those students who are vaccinated?” she said.

“However, I have taken both doses, and I feel fine so I would encourage students to take the vaccine for their health and access to the university’s resources.”

A medical bioscience student felt it was unfair to bar unvaccinated students from campus, saying: “Vaccination should be your personal business. I don’t see why one needs to know whether you are vaccinated. Its your own choice.”

“I don’t see how you should be deprived of reaching school resources like the library, mentors, lectures and privileges that the vaccinated students can access. It feels like a discrimination against people who are unvaccinated.”

Mr Abarder said the university had spent two months consulting students and staff – including the SRC, the employees’ union and the senate – and heard from various experts on the risks of Covid-19 and vaccine safety before the policy had been approved.

“The first and the amended draft was emailed to students and staff and placed on the university’s website for comment,” Mr Abarder said.

The SRC did not respond to questions by time of publication.