RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A group of more than 120 Virginia Commonwealth University professors is voicing frustration with how the university is enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and staff this fall.
Right now, VCU says noncompliant students are getting holds placed on their spring registrations. This week, VCU’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter sent a letter calling on school leadership to crack down on the students seemingly ignoring the school’s vaccine mandate.
Professor Everett Carpenter is president of VCU’s chapter. “I don’t see any reason at all why the students can’t comply with a mandate, either requesting an exemption or getting a vaccine,” he told WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Students and staff can request religious and medical exemptions. On Wednesday, VCU spokesperson Mike Porter said about four percent of students have been granted exemptions so far.
Porter also said about 450 students taking classes in-person have still not requested exemptions or reported their vaccination statuses. About 300 others have not complied but are taking classes online and are not expected to be on campus. The number of non-compliant students make up about two percent of the student body this fall.
In the letter, the group of professors said the administration is being far too easy on the students seemingly ignoring the policy.
“It is reasonable to expect that any student not following this directive would not be allowed to physically be on campus and potentially endanger the health and lives of others. As I am sure you know, the vast majority of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated as the Delta variant causes yet another case surge,” the letter states.
The group also points to how some other Virginia universities with vaccine mandates are reacting to non-compliant students. UVA and Virginia Tech recently disenrolled hundreds of students who hadn’t reported their vaccine statuses or requested exemptions.
“VCU must consider comparably decisive measures to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty,” the letter states.
“The ultimate [directive] has to be administrative withdrawal. I don’t think there’s any other way around it,” Carpenter said.
Since sending the letter, Carpenter said he’s learned that the administration is considering harsher punishments, like limiting access to certain facilities on campus or — withdrawing students.
“Having that information given to us, finally, I think eased some minds,” he told WFXR’s sister station.
On Wednesday afternoon, a VCU spokesperson confirmed what Carpenter was told.
“VCU is engaged in ongoing efforts to reach non-compliant students and encouraging/directing them as to the need for compliance. VCU is considering adding administrative withdrawal to the progressive discipline process for unvaccinated students who are out of compliance with required public health measures,” said VCU spokesperson Mike Porter.
For breaking news delivered to you, subscribe to WFXR’s breaking news email list
Get breaking news, weather, and sports delivered to your smartphone with the WFXR News app available on Apple and Android.