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DWASARI: Vaccinated students should still have access to coronavirus testing

Column: Cut the Bull

Although Rutgers implemented a vaccine mandate, those who did get vaccinated are not eligible for testing services. – Photo by Matan Dubnikov

Rutgers was one of the first schools to announce that it would require all of its students and faculty to be vaccinated, starting a trend around the country to promote a safe transition back to regular life on college campuses. Rutgers’ positive example was well-deserved for the University and created an initial sense of comfort for students and parents. Though, that initial sense of comfort started and ended.

I have to admit I was never a crazy quarantine person nor the most regular mask wearer. Like many of the people who read this article, I fought with my parents against many of their precautionary measures, but at the same time I understood my civic duty as a responsible individual to get tested when needed.

This brings me to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) policy that Rutgers has on campus: Anyone who is vaccinated does not have access to a testing kit, screening systems when entering buildings are mildly enforced and students who are not vaccinated can still enter buildings. 

The first policy is administered University-wide, and essentially implies that vaccinated people cannot contract the infection nor can they spread it. A simple Google search will show that vaccines are a strong defense mechanism, but nowhere near foolproof. I understand that amid a testing shortage conserving as many tests is important, but we have had testing shortages throughout the pandemic. 

The fact that there are more than 71,000 students attending undergraduate and graduate programs alone should be enough of a reason for Rutgers to provide bare minimum access to testing for students. As someone that goes to Rutgers, the environment here is conducive for partying, which brings along large gatherings and a risk of contracting the virus.

If I could have figured it out within my first month at Rutgers, it should be common knowledge for the University board. The perception I get is that they are turning a blind eye to the situation due to the potential disaster the released numbers could cause to current student life.

Rutgers’ flawed testing system is followed by a lackluster screening policy. Supposedly, whenever a student enters a Rutgers building, they must document their symptoms and answer a certain set of questions.

As someone who lives on campus and enters University buildings often, I have never once filled out the form let alone gotten a link to it. Having a platform has no effect at all if there is no data being collected, but it only takes basic measures to enforce it. 

Simply placing a QR code on the front door of buildings that are monitored by the security guards creates a successful screening system. At the same time, Rutgers’ expenses are maintained since they already have the security guards in place and do not need to increase payroll.

Even without a strong screening policy or a structured testing system for the majority of students, Rutgers policy allows unvaccinated people to enter buildings if they test twice a week. I do not know many people without a vaccine so I cannot speak to whether Rutgers policy is simply written or also enforced. Nonetheless, the lack of a screening to supplement unvaccinated individuals’ testing poses severe potential threats for the community. 

Everyone deserves an education, and everyone reserves the right to deny the vaccine whether it be for religious and health reasons or lack of trust in it, leading me to state that unvaccinated people should have the same access to Rutgers’ services as vaccinated people.

Although, everyone's decisions do have consequences, and I believe unvaccinated people should have stricter COVID-19 prevention policies to keep the large mass of students in the university safe. 

I am not a doctor nor have any experience in the medical field. Moreover, this type of article does not follow the same theme that I have for my column, but I saw a pressing and unaddressed issue within my University community that led me to writing about it.

My overarching belief is that students should be able to have the fun that they have lost over the past one and a half years, and in no way am I suggesting Rutgers forbid that from happening. Nonetheless, it is important for the University to allow access to testing kits for all students and administer some routine testing programs. While the pandemic has become an afterthought for many people, the truth is the virus is still prevalent in today’s world. 

Akhil Dwasari is a Rutgers Business School sophomore majoring in finance and minoring in political science. His column, "Cut the Bull," runs on alternate Fridays. 

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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