June 16 - To the Salve Regina community: FAQ regarding our vaccine mandate

Dear Salve Regina community,

We realize that our recent vaccine mandate has prompted a range of emotions from our campus community, and we appreciate the feedback that you have shared. Our goal is to create a setting at Salve Regina that is safe and supportive for all members of our community and where every person is valued.

As always, our decisions are based on the latest guidance we have available from the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC. We ask for your patience and understanding as we aim to provide our students with a vibrant and successful in-person experience this fall.

Thank you to those who have reached out with questions or concerns. Some frequently asked questions regarding the vaccine mandate are listed below, and additional questions not addressed in this message may be emailed to coronavirus@salve.edu.

Why did Salve Regina choose to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine?

Salve Regina was one of the last institutions in Rhode Island to mandate the vaccine. Upon review of guidelines for higher education institutions provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the American College Health Association and the Rhode Island Department of Health, it was evident that in order to offer the academic and student life experiences our University community desired, we had to reach the level of herd immunity that is needed to resume normal operations without restriction.

We hope to reach the level of herd immunity required by the state and also not have any need for restrictions, but this will depend on what regulations are in place when we open this fall.

Additional factors considered: 

  • Variants of concern, which are more infectious among younger populations, are currently spreading in the United States and in Rhode Island.
  • Higher education institutions where all students are fully vaccinated prior to the semester can return to full capacity in-person learning without masking or physical distancing for people who are fully vaccinated.
  • Gatherings and events that include individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to employ the appropriate preventative measures to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.
  • We would be remiss not to consider the health and safety of those living in congregate housing.
  • The Rhode Island Department of Health supports vaccine requirements for higher education institutions. They expect us to follow CDC guidance and also align our planning with the rate of spread within the state, Newport County and the campus community. Higher vaccination rates contribute to fewer logistical challenges for our campus community, including frequent changes to testing policies and procedures based on case levels.
  • Summer tourism is critical to the economic infrastructure of Newport and its surrounding communities. Our unique island location is a factor to consider when looking at trends for variant spread that could impact protocols for students as they enter classes in the fall.

Will Health Services disclose students' vaccination status?

Health Services operates under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and will not share students’ vaccination status, except for contact tracing and COVID-19 disease control with our contact identifying unit and the Rhode Island Department of Health. Students may choose whether to disclose this information to their peers, faculty, staff and coaches.

I already had COVID-19 and/or tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Do I need to receive the vaccine?

CDC guidelines indicate that individuals who already had COVID-19 and/or tested positive for antibodies should be vaccinated. Therefore, these individuals are also required to receive the vaccine prior to Aug. 1.

There is confirmation that individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 can become reinfected. Current evidence suggests that the risk of reinfection increases with time, as immunity from natural infection decreases. New viral variants may increase the risk of reinfection even more.

I am a student-athlete. Do I need to receive the vaccine in order to compete?

At this time, the Commonwealth Coast Conference has not issued any policies regarding unvaccinated student-athletes and their ability to compete. The majority of institutions in the conference are requiring vaccination for all students, including athletes.

How can I request an exemption?

Student requests for medical and religious exemptions should be submitted to Health Services by Aug. 1. Completed and signed forms should be uploaded to the COVID-19 vaccine form on the student health portal.

Employee requests for medical and religious exemptions should be submitted to the Office of Human Resources by Aug. 1. Forms should be printed, completed and returned to Human Resources via mail or in person to ensure confidentiality.

I do not qualify for a medical or religious exemption, but do not wish to receive the vaccine. What are my options?

Vaccination or exemption is required to attend classes. Students who have a strong conviction against receiving the vaccine may apply for an exemption. All requests will be considered on a case-by-cases basis. Those who are not granted exemption will be contacted and options will be discussed based on each student’s individual situation.

Vaccination or exemption is also required to work at Salve Regina. Employees who are not granted an exemption should plan to be vaccinated by Aug. 1.

When will I know if I am approved for an exemption?

Health Services will review all medical and religious exemption forms individually. Students will only be contacted if there is missing information or further discussion and/or documentation is needed.

If I receive an exemption, what guidelines do I need to follow?

Salve Regina will be following protocols that are in accordance with state and CDC guidelines. Currently, this includes regular testing, wearing masks indoors and keeping socially distant.

If I am not vaccinated, will I be issued a different Salve Regina ID?

Salve Regina is a respectful and inclusive community. We do not wish to single out those who remain unvaccinated and therefore will not be issuing IDs based on vaccination status. We do expect individuals who are not vaccinated to respect those who are fully vaccinated and abide honorably by the health and safety guidelines in place.

Why is Salve Regina not offering a remote or hybrid learning option for the fall semester?

Salve Regina’s undergraduate educational model is tailored toward a full residential experience and is best delivered through in-person formats. Students overwhelmingly expressed their desire to return to campus last year even when there were few remedies for the virus. Vaccinations make the traditional learning experience possible for all.

I am an international student whose arrival in the United States will be delayed. Will I have a remote option?

Salve Regina will not offer a remote option for the fall semester. International students need to arrive on campus no later than Sept. 14 to begin the term. New students who are unable to arrive by that date are advised to defer their enrollment to the spring semester. Returning students who are unable to arrive by that date should email Aida Neary at aida.neary@salve.edu to discuss options based on their course requirements and specific academic departments.

I am a graduate or RN-BSN student whose coursework is fully online. Do I need to submit my vaccination record?

Salve Regina’s vaccine mandate is applicable to students who are taking in-person classes and/or need to access our facilities during the academic year. Graduate and RN-BSN students who are fully online and have no need to access campus resources do not need to submit proof of vaccination.

I am a graduate student who will be on campus this fall for the nursing colloquium or humanities residency. Do I need to submit my vaccination record?

Salve Regina’s vaccine mandate is applicable to students who are taking in-person classes and/or need to access our facilities during the academic year. As such, graduate students who are participating in the nursing colloquium or humanities residency this fall must submit their vaccination record by Aug. 1.

How will my financial aid be impacted if I decide to take a semester off?

Salve Regina is committed to addressing the financial needs of our students to the best of our ability. Students who are approved for a leave of absence by the Dean of Students Office should contact their financial aid counselor to discuss their individual circumstances.

In general, students who choose to not enroll in the fall semester will have their financial aid award honored for the spring semester, provided they have not enrolled at another institution, as that may impact their federal award. Students who are returning in the fall semester after a leave of absence must reapply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA (all regular deadlines apply).

I did not arrange housing for the 2021-2022 academic year. What are my options?

Salve Regina currently has a waitlist for on-campus housing. Students who wish to be added to the waitlist should contact the Office of Residence Life at (401) 341-2210 or residencelife@salve.edu.

Off-campus housing options are available throughout Aquidneck Island for junior and senior students. For more information and resources, visit our off-campus living webpage.

Will families need to confirm their vaccination status to assist with move-in days?

Families will not need to confirm their vaccination status, but will be asked to comply with the latest CDC and Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines. This may include masking indoors and social distancing for those who are not fully vaccinated. More information about move-in days will be communicated later this summer.