Written for The Argo by Amna Haider
In Spring 2020, Stockton University students expected a two-week break to deal with SARS-COVID-19, only to end up with a two-month-long quarantine, and to this day a two-year-long break from normality. Now as we return to campus for the fall 2021 semester, we see many changes. We finally have many face-to-face course modalities and classrooms at full capacity.
According to the Campus Operations During Covid-19 webpage, “a classroom designed for 35 students will accommodate courses with 35 students.”
Stockton students were also told that the fall semester would not have mask mandates for the vaccinated as well as visitors for residential students on campus. However, on August 16 Stockton reinstated mask mandates for all students, regardless of vaccination status.
Peter Baratta, Stockton’s Chief Planning Officer, and co-chair of the University Resilience Operations Committee said that “The decision to require masks indoor was based on the increasing number of regional, state, and national COVID-19 cases along with a review of state and federal guidelines based on the progress of the coronavirus.”
As of Aug. 20, 2021, according to Stockton’s Emergency Management Coronavirus Information page, 74.30% of students were fully vaccinated, and 78.41% are fully vaccinated or have had one COVID-19 shot.
According to Baratta, “Faculty are also required to be vaccinated based on a union agreement and 95% are vaccinated.”
As of August 25, Management is also 96.23% vaccinated. However other unions such as IFPTE, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers is only 58.46% vaccinated, and the police have an even lower vaccination rate of 31.82%. On August 27, students who did not send in proof of vaccination or an exemption notice were dropped from their housing plan and fall schedules and were not allowed to re-register until the proper paperwork was submitted. To further add to the list of consequences, if the class that was dropped had a waitlist, students were placed on the waitlist for the class and given no preferential treatment.
Beginning Sept. 1, unvaccinated students, both residential and commuter, will have to screen in Galloway Campus’s parking lot 8A, twice a week on days they are on campus. Stockton University faculty are also to go screen on Galloway’s parking lot 8A for each day they are scheduled to work. All these changes are sure to cause some upset from individuals in Stockton. When Stockton first required vaccines for students, senior Nicholas Carlson created a petition to get Stockton to reverse their vaccination decisions. The petition now has 1544 signatures but has made no impact on Stockton’s COVID-19 decisions.
With the university’s high vaccination numbers and mask mandates, Baratta said, “We do not anticipate the university going back to a fully online semester. However, we will continue tracking the progress of the coronavirus and will respond to any new developments as needed.”
In 2019, the University Resilience Operations Committee was established to respond to all COVID-19 issues and to “recommend safety precautions to the president and his cabinet.” However, all final decisions come through President, Harvey Kesselman. Stockton also created a web page called “Why I Vaxxed Up” to share stories of why Stockton students and staff have decided to get vaccinated and to motivate other students to do the same. Now as the semester starts to get going again, as per Stockton’s new COVID campaign, Soar Safely Ospreys!