Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. punished roughly 1,300 students by restricting their Wi-Fi access earlier this month due to their failure to comply with the school’s vaccine requirements.
According to The Emory Wheel — the university’s student newspaper — this week, those who failed to adhere to Emory’s vaccine mandate saw their Wi-Fi slow down and were unable to access nonacademic websites, like social media. Executive Director for COVID-19 Response and Recovery Amir St. Clair said the restrictions got more than half of the impacted students to submit proof of vaccination or request an exemption.
“The WiFi restrictions were a valuable compliance measure to help promote participation,” St. Clair said. “Our hope is that it will continue to have an impact.”
Emory University requires all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 “regardless of work or study location, with exceptions only for those with approved medical or religious exemptions,” the school’s website states.
As of Friday, Emory’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that 94.8 percent of students and 91.1 percent of faculty and staff have verified that they are up-to-date on the required shots.
Students who submit proof of a booster after their Wi-Fi has been restricted can expect full access to be restored within a few days, St. Clair said. Exemptions, on the other hand, can take seven to 10 days to be reviewed and approved.
St. Clair noted that additional disciplinary action against those who refuse to comply could be taken in the coming weeks.
“We just need to continue to be very mindful of the environment that we’re in relative to safety and health,” he said. “We want to continue to make really good decisions so that we can end the year in a very safe and healthy way, and be able to really enjoy the end of the year celebrations and events and parties and commencements.”
In the past 10 days, 54 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the university, the school’s website states. St. Clair said the slight increase in cases was expected, adding that there are “very low rates of transmission” among students, faculty and staff on campus.
“We are not seeing a surge, a spike there,” St. Clair said. “The Emory community and the metro Atlanta area counties continue to be classified as a low risk community, per CDC guidelines.”
Because transmission rates have been low, Emory recently started allowing students to attend class without wearing a mask.
“We will empower everybody to create an inclusive environment where people make good decisions for their own safety and health,” St. Clair said. “There’s nothing precluding having good conversations and dialogue about that.”