As the fall semester approaches and the delta variant of the coronavirus increasingly spreads, students are left wondering what to do when groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated people combine.

As a public university, UCA must adhere to the recent state law and regulation changes.

“As you all know, acts were passed this legislative session that eliminate mask mandates by public bodies effective July 28, 2021. The acts also require that public entities in Arkansas are prohibited from implementing any form of COVID-19 vaccine requirement, so there will be no verification system or required documentation of vaccination to participate in university activities, including employment or enrollment,” said President Houston Davis in a recent email to UCA faculty and staff.

Though the institution cannot ask students whether they’ve been vaccinated, students are allowed to ask each other. 

With growing tensions among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, questions arise such as the continuation of hybrid classes and rooming within dorms and campus apartments.

Zoom classes became a staple learning technique throughout the height of the pandemic, yet UCA has chosen not to reinstate this method.

“Classes will return to their normal instructional method,” said Fredricka Sharkey, director of media relations for the university. “While we will continue to encourage face coverings, individuals not wearing a face covering cannot be asked whether he or she has been vaccinated.”

This return of the typical instructional method also brings back the possibility of group assignments from professors.

In case of group work, “students can wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, use hand sanitizer and take other personal safety measures,” said Sharkey.

When it comes to students meeting their roommates, some are left questioning what they should do if they are uncomfortable with their roommate’s vaccination status.

“UCA is not collecting information about whether a student has been vaccinated or not. So, there is not a formal way for us to use that information in roommate matching,” said Stephanie McBrayer, Associate Vice President for Housing and Residence Life.

If students are uncomfortable with their roommate, they have the option to change their housing assignment.

“We do have a room change period, usually the week after classes begin where we will allow (as space permits) room changes,” McBrayer said. “If it is a critical situation, we will handle it on a case-by-case basis. We have to allow time for students to come and claim their room as well as do our ‘no show’ checks before we typically start moving residents around.”

The first step students need to take when trying to change rooms is to contact their residence coordinator. 

In case of COVID breakouts within campus housing, the university still has isolation areas on campus.

“We do still have quarantine/isolation housing available on campus for those students who need it and we do have protocols in place,” McBrayer said. “We look closely at the CDC guidelines and follow the direction of Dr. Pastor and the other on campus health professionals.”

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