SALISBURY, N.C. — Believe it or not, there are only a few weeks left of summer for many students. Colleges and universities heading back in about a month and many are hoping to return to normal operations after a year and a half of some virtual learning and COVID-19 protocols on campus.
For some universities, that includes requiring students and staff get vaccinated.
Colleges and universities have the right to require vaccination and a handful in the Carolinas will. But younger people have been slower to get vaccinated and some students say they want a choice.
Life on campus is what makes a college experience. It's what so many students missed out on during the pandemic and what many universities are trying to return to.
“We recognized that we need to think about how do we keep the campus safe with restrictions around you being lifted, how do you make sure that you're able to execute your mission in this new normal,” Dr. Anthony J. Davis, Chief Operating Officer at Livingstone College, said.
Vaccines will be key on Livingstone College's campus and several others. Clinton College, Johnson and Wales University, Johnson C. Smith University, Duke University and Lenoir-Rhyne University are all requiring students and staff to give proof of vaccination for the upcoming semester.
But some students are pushing back.
“Everybody's side should be taken into consideration. I think it’s their choice,” Aubrey Holman, a rising senior at Lenoir-Rhyne University, told WCNC Charlotte.
She’s in the nursing program and started an online petition to remove the university's vaccine mandate, to let students and staff decide for themselves. She said she plans to apply for a religious exemption and has no problem masking and social distancing on campus.
“If a patient came to me and said what’s your views on this vaccination, I’ll tell them it’s their choice. They have the right to say they can be vaccinated if they want to, if they don’t want to be vaccinated they don’t have to be," Holman said.
Lenoir-Rhyne officials say many of the signatures on the petition are not people associated with the university and that they are requiring vaccinations to keep the campus safe.
Safety is what every university is striving for.
“We want immunity in our community,” Davis said.
Livingstone students who do not want to get vaccinated can still choose to enroll in remote learning.
UNC Charlotte is not requiring vaccinations but strongly recommended students and staff get the shots.