Temple extends COVID-19 vaccine exemption request deadline

Students can still request a medical or religious exemption even though the university’s Sept. 17 request deadline has passed, and may face disenrollment if their request is not granted.

Temple University has announced that students will be allowed to request medical or religious exemptions from the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate past the exemption request deadline on Sept. 17. | GRACIE HEIM / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University will allow unvaccinated students to request medical or religious exemptions from the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate past the Sept. 17 exemption request deadline to avoid unnecessarily disenrolling students, the university announced today.

“We do not want that to happen, that is not, that is the absolute last thing we want to have to happen is to just disenroll a student,” said Stephen Orbanek, a university spokesperson. 

Students who have not uploaded their vaccination card or are not in compliance with university COVID-19 testing requirements have already begun to lose access to campus buildings, Orbanek said.

The university has not confirmed if unvaccinated students will be disenrolled if found in violation of the requirement because it wants to consider each student on a case-by-case basis, Orbanek said.

For example, if an unexempted student is not vaccinated by the deadline but only has one in-person class, they could be offered remote enrollment instead of being fully disenrolled, Orbanek said. The student would not be permitted in on-campus buildings, he added.

“It’s not like so black and white to say that, ‘Yes you are not, you are not vaccinated, you do not have an exemption, you are disenrolled,”’ Orbanek said. 

Temple’s total undergraduate enrollment for the Fall 2021 semester has already decreased by 4.5 percent from last fall, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students graduating in four years because of the university’s Fly-in-Four program and smaller new incoming classes, wrote Shawn Abbott, vice provost for enrollment management, in an email to The Temple News. 

The Bursar’s Office is “finalizing the fee policy,” including tuition, fees and room and board, for students who are disenrolled, wrote the office in an email to The Temple News. 

“It is our goal to finalize the policy as quickly as possible,” the Bursar’s Office wrote. 

Temple announced its vaccine mandate on Aug. 13 shortly after the City of Philadelphia announced all university students, faculty and health care workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, The Temple News reported

As of Sept. 16, nearly 78 percent of Temple students are fully vaccinated, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard.  

Approximately 82 percent of Temple employees are fully vaccinated, according to the dashboard.

Temple is required by Philadelphia’s mandate to prevent faculty and staff who are not vaccinated by Oct. 15 from working on campus, wrote Sharon Boyle, associate vice president of human resources, in an email to The Temple News.

“Termination is always a last resort, however, if a faculty or staff member refuses to submit documentation of vaccination or receive an approved exemption, we may have no choice,” Boyle wrote.

Temple’s Human Resources department is considering offering “a short period of unpaid time” for employees who did not receive the vaccine in time to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, submit an exemption request or submit proof of vaccination, Boyle added.

Students, faculty and staff should have received their first shot of a two-dose vaccine by Sept. 10 and their second dose or a single-shot vaccine by Oct. 1, The Temple News reported.

The university expects its vaccination rate to rise once students and faculty get their second dose of a two-dose vaccine or a single-dose vaccine in the coming weeks, Orbanek said.

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