Navigating evolving social norms against the coronavirus

PHOTO | TROY HULL
Johnson C. Smith University is one of several colleges in North Carolina to require all students, faculty and staff to get and demonstrate the coronavirus vaccine. JCSU also requires face masks inside campus buildings and encourages their use outdoors as well.

Nadia Johnson was so happy to see her friends at Johnson C. Smith University more than a year after the campus was closed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was really good,” said Johnson, a communications arts major. “I felt rejuvenated, honestly, because I got to see all of my friends and everyone I met before COVID. I really feel like I’m continuing my experience here at JCSU because before we left I had technically just transferred to Smith. And so my experience was kind of cut short, in person. So, it’s really nice to be back.

The campus, which closed to students in March 2020, opened on August 16 for classes. Before their arrival, they were to receive a COVID vaccine and email a photo of their vaccination card to the Student Health Center.

“It does bring some ease,” said Johnson, who was vaccinated in April. “I’m always very careful about it, you know, with things happening almost every day. I always keep that in mind. But I am more comfortable that the university made this decision to ensure that all students are vaccinated. [or] unless otherwise specified, documented. But I feel a lot better. I really feel comfortable being on campus because of these regulations.

Face masks are still mandatory inside the JCSU and are optional outside but strongly encouraged.

Mandates for face coverings and COVID vaccine requirements are in place at some colleges and universities in the Charlotte area and statewide.

JCSU, Johnson & Wales University, Queens University of Charlotte, and Livingstone College require all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated and present proof of status.

“We miss our students, who have been away from campus for over a year,” Davida Haywood, JCSU vice president of student affairs, said in a statement. “This requirement, in line with CDC recommendations, ensures that they can safely return to campus, study and enjoy their university experience in the fall.”

At UNC Charlotte, Appalachian State University, Central University of North Carolina, and all campuses in the University of North Carolina system, vaccines are optional, but face masks are required.

Dr Christopher Ohl, infectious disease expert at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, said higher education institutions should have vaccine and face mask mandates.

“The only thing about universities is really different from K to 12 schools [because of] university residences, ”he said. “[College students] sleeping in dormitories and then socializing in those areas, and these can be areas where transmission can occur. So many universities have had vaccination mandates that I support for a university. ”

Mandatory masks
Some universities are resuming in-person events on campus at full capacity with students wearing face masks.

Most of the events last year took place virtually, with some requiring a limited number of people.

Talisha Balls enjoyed attending the first major event of the semester at NCCU, known as Training Day, which features several clubs and organizations to the student body.

“It was awesome,” said Balls, a senior psychology student. “It was hype, it wasn’t too crowded. Everyone had fun. “

Balls is excited about her senior year but is hoping COVID doesn’t stop her from crossing the stage early on.

“I’m a little nervous because I really want to cross the stage, I really want to have that experience,” she said.

From now on, Balls is weighing his options after graduation. His aspiration is to become a criminal psychologist.

Last school year at NCCU, students were required to adhere to strict COVID measures such as a dormitory no-visit policy and were not allowed to eat in campus restaurants. This year the rules have loosened. Students can again have visitors in their rooms and visit friends in other dorms. Students can also sit down and eat again at campus restaurants.

The school offers free COVID tests and vaccines on campus to students, faculty, staff and members of the public.

Charlotte doesn’t require students to take a COVID vaccine, but Jaleah Ladson was confident to start her freshman year of college.

Ladson, a freshman specializing in marketing, was prepared for college through the College Transition Opportunities Program, a six-week summer initiative that includes on-campus classes, a dorm stay, and get-togethers. with peers via Raftr, a communication platform for students.

PHOTO | AALIYA BOWDEN
Jaleah Ladson, first year of UNC Charlotte from Indian Trail, why the school didn’t need COVID-19 vaccines but did for masks in campus buildings. “There are signs like everywhere in the school so I think they vouch as much as they can,” she said.

“I don’t have a lot of people from my hometown that go to UNC Charlotte,” said Ladson, who is from Indian Trail. “So it helped a lot in making friends, and using the Raftr app also helped because you can click on different people’s names and chat with them and everything. So that kind of helped me come out of my shell to meet new people.

In Charlotte, face masks must be worn indoors by students, faculty and staff.

Ladson said she understands why her school does not require COVID vaccines for students.

“I understand why they can’t because it’s not a private college,” she said. “But I think if they could, they would. They’re very strict about wearing the mask. They’re really careful when they touch things and wash their hands and things like that. signs all over the school so I think they vouch as much as they can.

Ladson said she “feels pretty safe” and plans to join the Campus Activities Council.

Caleb Basaldu, a psychology student at Charlotte, also supports the university’s decision.

“I don’t think they would do anything to put us in danger, so I think they are doing what they think is best for us,” he said. “Personally, I’m going to wear a mask and I’m personally vaccinated, so I think if everyone does what they need to help prevent the spread of COVID, I think you’ll be fine. “

Basaldu said most of his classes are online this semester. After graduating in May, he plans to seek an athletic therapy internship. He also considered getting a master’s degree in social psychology to become a teacher.


Although he is worried about student debt, loan repayment is not Basaldu’s main focus at the moment.

“I think you shouldn’t forget or ignore the fact that I have loans, but it’s just not a priority right now,” he said. “I don’t want to stress about things that aren’t happening right now. But when that moment comes, we’ll (referring to his parents) take it step by step. “

Johnson, who is chair of the Golden Bulls activities committee at JCSU, said the students were more engaged at the events and were excited to be back.

“Being in this position, I could see how excited the students were as the engagement was like no other – the freshmen, the sophomores, they were. confident enough to come to these events, you know, juniors and seniors who maybe hadn’t attended a lot of events before went there, ”she said. “Because that campus experience hasn’t been there for about a year and a half. So it’s unreal, we see the engagement through the roof.

This being Johnson’s last year, her mission is to get more involved on campus and find out who she is.

“I just got involved, even more than I’ve ever been,” she said. “I’m just ready to continue this legacy of doing things for students and for the university as a whole. So that’s my biggest thing and just finding my place in this world while being a student, and they help me really well with that.

This article has been updated to correct Appalachian State University’s position on COVID-19 vaccination.

Aaliyah Bowden, who covers health at The Post, is a member of the Report for America corps.

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One correction: The state of Appalachia does not require all students and faculty to be vaccinated. As a UNC school, they cannot (only the North Carolina Public Health Commission can impose vaccines on state universities), but can only “strongly encourage” as others do. UNC system schools. https://www.appstate.edu/go/coronavirus/vaccine/#are-vaccines-required (I’m not sure this happened the first time around).
Posted on September 1, 2021
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