Despite the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officially calling an end to the pandemic emergency on May 11 this year, the university decided to keep the vaccine mandate in a policy update. It means students who aren't fully vaccinated won't be able to attend classes on campus, unless they have a medical or religious exemptios.
"Exemption requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis; they are NOT automatically granted," the university wrote on its website.
Those with an exemption may still not be able to live in on-campus accommodation.
"For those granted exemptions, on-campus participation is not guaranteed, and is dependent on the overall course of the pandemic, the rate and efficacy of vaccination, and the student's academic program," the university wrote.
In its policy update, Rutgers wrote the reason for the policy was: "To minimize outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Rutgers University community; to prevent and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among all persons at Rutgers University and Rutgers– affiliated healthcare units; and to promote the public health of the community in a manner consistent with federal, State, and local efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic as well as federal and State law."
The university suggested those who weren't vaccinated could take some courses online, even though not all classes were available to be taught in that way. The other option for unvaccinated students was to disenroll from their degree.
Rutgers' updated policy sparked backlash online, with some calling for a boycott of the university, comparing it to Bud Light's recent controversy. The beer has faced a national boycott campaign since April, after it teamed up with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, and sent her personalized cans of beer with her face on them to celebrate one year since she began her gender transition.
Newsweek contacted Rutgers by email for comment.
"This is kind of like a Bud Light moment for Rutgers University," wrote one person on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Another added: "Can we Bud Light Rutgers? God damn communists..."
And a third commented: "I think Rutgers needs the "Bud Light" treatment."
Rutgers is one of about 100 universities and colleges in the country to still have a COVID vaccine mandate, according to the No College Mandates lobby group.
anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense, which was formed by
Democratic presidential hopeful and anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, sued
Rutgers over the mandate.
"Does a university have the legal authority to coerce a student's consent to a highly invasive injection of a yet-to-be fully investigated experimental vaccine that does not prevent the spread of disease and poses risk of serious harm?" he said in court.
But in September 2021, a federal district judge upheld Rutgers' vaccine mandate saying to not do so would be dangerous for public health and the case was dropped the following year after multiple appeals.