The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, on-campus living is a popular option for many students, freshmen and upperclassmen alike. Dorms with security, “a 24-hour information desk...laundry facilities, lounges, Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and furniture” house over 6,000 students throughout the 11 dorms.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, VCU adopted a closed campus model like many other universities, restricting all non-VCU students from entry into dorm facilities in order to decrease case numbers. The policy tightened further in August 2020 when an official email instituted the restriction of non-residential students as well. This new change prohibited all off-campus residential students — who still have contact with dorm residents in all other VCU facilities — from entry into VCU dorms.
Three semesters later, the policy is still in effect. The university ends the official policy with the possibility of change stating, “Any changes to access for nonresidential students and non-affiliated guests will be communicated to all impacted residents via email” but has not publicly addressed the issue further.
On Jan 31 the university shocked much of the student body when it retracted previous strict vaccine and booster requirements. An official email explained, “Our high vaccination rates and ongoing mitigation efforts – combined with the recent legal opinion from the Attorney General for the Commonwealth that COVID-19 vaccines cannot be required for students – has led VCU to end requiring student vaccinations and boosters for the spring semester.” The study body is now eager for a change in guest policy among decreasing COVID-19 restrictions at the university.
A petition started by Alexander McCoy has over 1,000 signatures to date, closely approaching the listed goal of 1,500. One commenter on the petition shared a sentiment stating, If VCU is no longer requiring vaccines then there’s no reason for them to keep off-campus students out of dorms. It’s no longer a safety issue at this point.”
The commenter did illustrate a clear challenge that VCU now faces. Without the vaccine requirement controlling the level of spread at the university, what practices can truly control COVID-19 aside from masks? Students and staff now can potentially interact with non-vaccinated individuals at a much higher rate than before, leading to a higher likelihood of spread. This unexpected scenario presents the question of whether the restrictive guest policy is truly still functioning as a means to provide prevention.
For students who want to have off-campus friends over or their significant others from out of town come stay for the weekend, the institution of a more lenient guest policy would provide a social buzz on campus not seen since fall 2019. On the other hand, possible exposure from areas outside of the VCU community could result in an uncontrollable outbreak.
Only time will tell which way VCU decides to lean on the guest policy issue among increasing pressure from the student body.