The Mixed Rooms of PLNU’s Housing Vaccination Policy

Flex apartment, photo courtesy of Lauren O'Brien.

Amid mask mandates, college vaccination requirements, and the changing landscape of COVID-19, Point Loma Nazarene University not only allows students to remain unvaccinated, but also allows them to room with those who are vaccinated.

The mixed vaccination status can be a point of contention. Many colleges this fall are requiring their students be vaccinated – though PLNU is not currently among them. In fact, the administration cannot make housing decisions based on vaccination status.

“It comes down to privacy concerns,” said Jake Gilbertson, director of residential life. “The reality is we can’t do housing based on vaccination status because we don’t have access to those records. Only the Wellness Center has them, and they can’t share them because it would violate HIPPA.”

The Wellness Center denied multiple requests for comment.

“I think that Point Loma has done a great job allowing students to live as normally as they can amidst the pandemic,” said Ivy Bartlett, first year pre-nursing student, in an email interview. 

Bartlett and her roommate have different vaccination statuses. “I appreciate that they have made it a priority to provide resources for students to make their own decision without pressure in either direction.”

A main concern of mixed-vaccination status rooms is that the students would not be aware of their roommate’s choice, and feel awkward or hesitant to ask.

“Our returning students did have the freedom to choose who they room with, and they can ask those personal questions,” said Gilbertson. 

Freshmen had more limited options, though they have found ways to navigate.

“I did know that my roommate had a different vaccination status,” said Bartlett. “We talked about it a few weeks before we moved in and were both completely understanding and accepting of the other’s choice.”

Fortunately, as of Oct. 8th, PLNU’s campus has only two active cases. For those students who choose to remain unvaccinated, weekly surveillance testing is a requirement. 

Shayla Schmida, third year writing and environmental studies major, said “It’s a good way to keep an eye on the numbers and make sure that everyone on campus is staying safe while living life as normally as possible.” 

Schmida is unvaccinated, and I, her current roommate, knew this before moving in with her. While the conversation was not easy or devoid of hesitancy, it was necessary for us to be on the same page about COVID-19 protocols and behaviors. 

“I can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. I’m glad that PLNU is giving students the choice, and allowing me to still room with my friend,” said Schmida.

PLNU is not implementing a vaccine mandate, though that might change in the future. When as asked about the housing policy and other COVID-19 concerns, Gilbertson said “This [policy] isn’t forever. We’re constantly looking at our vaccination requirements. As… we get more research and and better data, we might consider a change to our vaccination requirements. We are looking at it very seriously.”

By: Emma McCoy