Stockton University will require all students to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to come to campus during the fall semester even those taking remote classes.

The school joins Drew, Fairleigh Dickinson, Kean, Montclair, New Jersey City University, Rider, Rutgers, and the Stevens Institute of Technology in the requirement for any students attending class on their respective campuses. Only Stevens is requiring faculty and staff to also show proof.

"One of the most important steps we all can take to keep ourselves and each other safe is to get vaccinated. It is the responsible thing to do. The COVID-19 vaccine is now plentiful and available to everyone over the age of 16," Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said in his announcement.

Faculty and staff are “encouraged” to get vaccinated but it is not a requirement, according to Kesselman, who said that over 35% of Stockton employees have voluntarily reported that they have been vaccinated.

Senior Nicholas Carlson started an online petition Wednesday questioning the school's decision because the COVID-19 vaccines are only authorized for emergency use. Carlson also took issue with staff not being required to take the vaccine.

"The university is deliberately illustrating the action of taking the COVID-19 vaccine to be a glorious act of societal righteousness, even going as far to post an image with the university’s mascot wearing a shirt saying, 'Be an Inspiration, Get Vaccinated' on their social media pages with the vaccine mandate message," Carlson wrote. "The truth is that this is a serious decision that a student should come to their own conclusion on with their family and doctor. The right to a quality education should not play a role in deciding upon whether a person should receive an emergency vaccination."

Students and parents hoping to get around the requirement by taking all virtual classes will be out of luck as most classes will be again be in-person during the fall semester.

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"A student who may be taking classes online still has full access to the campus and its services and may come to meet friends, use the library, or attend an event. For that reason, the vaccination requirement includes all students," spokeswoman Diane D'Amico told New Jersey 101.5.

Rutgers, which was the country's first university to require the COVID-19 vaccination, will have a similar requirement of all students learning remotely or in-person.

"Unless students are enrolled in a fully online degree program at Rutgers, a fully remote/virtual option cannot be assured. There will be several remote course offerings, but these will be offered for single courses rather than entire programs," spokeswoman Dory Devlin said. "It is important for students to understand that face-to-face, remote, and online course offerings will vary according to their course of study and confirmed through their course planning module. Some courses may be offered in a hybrid fashion, a mix of online and face-to-face class meetings.

Students taking fully online degree programs at Rider University will be included in the Mercer County school's requirement.

"The requirement applies to all students who are enrolled or will otherwise be present on campus for any reason," Rider spokeswoman Kristine Brown said, citing an example of attending an athletic event.

She said students taking online degree programs who live far from campus will not require vaccination.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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