DOVER — All Delaware State University students and employees will be required to present proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to return to campus in August, school officials announced Tuesday.
The only exceptions to this policy will be individuals with an approved medical or religious exemption.
"The university will be returning to its primarily face-to-face model of classroom instruction this fall,” said Provost Dr. Saundra DeLauder. “We discovered that some courses actually worked better for faculty and students in a hybrid format, so we are going to keep them that way, but what students can expect is to be sitting in their classrooms and interacting directly with their professors.”
In a news release, university President Dr. Tony Allen emphasized that the vaccination requirement is the logical extension of the university’s COVID-19 testing regime, which has kept virus positives down to an average of 0.5% among students and employees.
“Our testing program in collaboration with Testing for America allowed us to bring back about 70% of our residential population last year for mostly hybrid courses,” he said. “The vaccination requirement permits us to open up more space at both the University’s main campus and ... the soon-to-be-acquired Wesley College campus and to return to our normal methods of course delivery.”
He added that more students will be at the Wesley campus with the acquisition and vaccination effort, and anticipated an economic push downtown.
"Dover businesses should know that there will be more students than they've seen in years at the Wesley College of Health and Behavioral Sciences on our downtown campus, and we expect those students to be spending money on Main Street,” he said.
With vaccinations required, residential housing percentages will increase to near pre-COVID-19 numbers, and students will be allowed to have roommates again, spokesman Steve Newton said.
While masks will likely still be required, depending on the state’s guidance, there will be significantly more in-person social activities available on campus, he added.
Dr. Michelle Fisher, the university’s chief medical officer, said in a news release that many students have already received at least their first injections during a number of on-campus vaccination events.
“Hundreds of students have taken advantage of these opportunities,” Dr. Fisher said. “For those who need assistance in getting their second shot, we are working to help them find venues at home to finish the series.”
The university will permit legitimate, documented medical and religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement, according to DSU’s General Counsel Dr. LaKresha Moultrie.
“We will work with everyone with a special situation,” Dr. Moultrie said, “but it helps to know about potential issues as early as possible.”
She added that anyone who claims such an exemption will have to provide supporting documentation.
The university held its first COVID-19 vaccination event on campus in April.
The event in Memorial Hall gave doses to an estimated 400 faculty, staff members and students from both Wesley College and DSU.
Dr. Joan Coker of Testing for America addressed the issue of vaccination myths.
“Despite the myths and misinformation surrounding the issue of COVID vaccinations, all of the existing vaccines are safe and effective,” she said. “I encourage everyone to collaborate on keeping the university community safe by getting vaccinated before returning this fall.”