COVID-19 vaccine mandates are being imposed on college students across the nation, including at many Catholic universities. Before returning to campus, students must first scale a vaccination wall or gain a medical exemption. Almost all institutions also provide exemptions for students with religious and conscientious objections. But Creighton University (where I have served on the faculty for over 27 years) has recently clarified that its vaccine wall remains closed; unvaccinated students with religious and conscientious objections to the vaccine are not welcome.
Universities are understandably concerned about providing a safe campus environment. But can an acceptable level of safety be attained without compelling students to violate their consciences? Significantly, no one else in the Big East conference has embraced such a restrictive approach. Schools with a vaccine mandate allow religious and/or personal conscientious exemptions, and one school (Xavier) does not impose a vaccine requirement.
Creighton’s policy imposes significant costs upon students and their families who want to preserve the integrity of their convictions. If they are forced to transfer, scholarships, athletic eligibility, research positions, and timely completion of their academic programs are in jeopardy, along with relationships with friends, faculty, and coaches who have mentored them. The promise of cura personalis (loosely translated as care of the whole person) rings hollow to these students when their alma mater is telling them their convictions don’t matter. If they choose to act on their beliefs, they will be expelled—no exceptions, no discussion.