Kayla Merchiore came to Temple University this year hoping she wouldn’t be sharing spaces on campus with unvaccinated students or faculty after the university’s original Oct. 15 vaccine mandate deadline.
Now that Temple has extended its deadline, she feels the university is not prioritizing the health and safety of students and faculty.
“I don’t like the way it’s being handled,” Merchiore, a freshman psychology major said. “It feels selfish, kind of childish and spineless, like they don’t even know what they’re doing.”
Following new city guidance, Temple University is giving students, faculty and staff until Nov. 15 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one month longer than the original vaccine mandate deadline that was announced in August, The Temple News reported. After learning about the extension, students expressed anger and frustration with the university’s decision with some claiming the move disregards any desire to protect their health.
Merchiore spent all of last year learning remotely and worries about potentially contracting COVID-19 on campus and unknowingly bringing it home to her family when she visits, she said.
“It’s less about me more about the spread,” Merchiore said. “I can still catch it. There are people in my life that I would not forgive myself if I passed it to because I don’t know that they would recover or live so it’s, it’s tricky.”
On Aug. 10, Temple announced students, faculty and staff are required to wear masks indoors and in enclosed spaces during the Fall 2021 semester, and encouraged, but did not require, vaccinations, The Temple News reported. Three days later, an order from the City of Philadelphia prompted the university to announce that all students, faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, except in cases of religious or medical exemption, The Temple News reported.
Merchiore is frustrated with the new extension because the university made it seem they would not tolerate unvaccinated individuals after Oct. 15, but now are, she said.
“It sucks because the people who are being a pain in the ass for no reason are getting away with it,” Merchiore added.
The university initially planned to restrict access to buildings and possibly disenroll students who did not comply with the Oct. 15 vaccine deadline and weekly COVID-19 testing while on campus, The Temple News reported.
Kathryn Wocell believes the extension will prevent Temple from holding students accountable.
“There are certain people that won’t get vaccinated here, and it’s like they just got away with it with the extension,” said Wocell, a sophomore drawing and painting major. “The whole point is to get everyone vaccinated and, like, get everyone in person, wearing masks.”
Before the extension, Wocell hoped Temple would relax its masking guidelines once its original vaccine mandate deadline passed. Now she feels a mask-less future is no longer in the cards, she said.
“It’s special to be in person,” Wocell said. “I think people not being vaccinated is the only thing stopping that.”
As of Oct. 17, there are 18 COVID-19 cases among students and employees. Nearly 95 percent of students and 96 percent of employees are vaccinated, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard.
Although Temple’s vaccination rates are increasing and cases are decreasing, Wocell feels unvaccinated individuals will choose to not comply with the mandate, leading the university to extend the deadline again, she said.
“I mean, I guess not everyone was ready [to get vaccinated], maybe, but they weren’t ready now, so do you really think they’re going to be ready in a month?” Wocell said.
Temple was not forced to extend its vaccine deadline and instead followed city guidance regarding the Nov. 15 extension, The Temple News reported.
Makayla McManus believes the university’s decision will only benefit those who do not want to get vaccinated, she said.
“They’re probably trying to do this, obviously to give more opportunities to get people vaccinated but, like on the other side, it will give other people the opportunity to find another excuse,” said McManus, a senior sociology major.
Temple is allowing individuals to apply for religious, medical or remote-only exemptions from its vaccine mandate and extended the original Sept. 17 exemption request deadline indefinitely, The Temple News reported. Going forward, McManus hopes unexempted students who do not get vaccinated will be held accountable.
“I hope that there’s some type of like consequence for them not getting vaccinated, like they are either kicked out or restricted to online classes or something,” McManus said.
Unvaccinated individuals must be tested twice for COVID-19 per week until they complete their vaccine series, The Temple News reported. Students who are not in compliance with university vaccine guidelines have begun to lose access to campus buildings and have been withdrawn from in-person classes, The Temple News reported.
Merchiore thinks the university is handling the vaccine mandates poorly and must be more proactive and adamant in its decisions regarding the vaccine going forward, she said.
“I don’t like to believe that people truly have bad intentions,” Merchiore said. “But it kind of made me think well, ‘Are we not as much of the priority as we thought we were?’”
Wocell hopes the COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be more heavily enforced just as other immunization requirements are enforced, she said.
“We all have the tetanus or the measles shot,” she said. “I don’t see why COVID is any different.”