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Nova to require all students and staff to be vaccinated. Is it legal?

Picture of the COVID-19 vaccine (Nick Papantonis)
Picture of the COVID-19 vaccine (Nick Papantonis)
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Nova Southeastern University is believed to be the first college in the United States to require its students and staff to be fully vaccinated ahead of the fall semester.

So far, Rutgers University in New Jersey has required only their students be vaccinated.

It covers all the NSU campuses, from Puerto Rico to Jacksonville.

“The intent is to get back to the classroom,” said Dr. Harry Moon from NSU in a news conference Friday.

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Overall, about 26,000 people between students and staff will need to be inoculated. Dr. Moon says they will look at exceptions on a case by case basis.

They anticipate legal challenges.

“We expect that to happen, but this is the safest path forward,” Dr. Moon said.

Can something like this be required? We asked an employment lawyer and an education lawyer.

They noted two exceptions to a requirement like this: health or religion.

From a staff standpoint, William Julien -- an employment lawyer -- says it would be difficult to qualify for an exception.

“Employees have no rights in Florida. An employer can tell an employee to do whatever they want or they can get fired or they can quit,” Julien said. “If it poses a direct threat the other employees, then they can say hey, you not getting a vaccine at our workplace is a threat to our employees, we don’t have to accommodate you.”

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For students, education lawyer Shahar Pasch says there is more leeway.

“Typically, you just must have a doctor certify that you cannot be vaccinated or you file a religious exemption form. Those are not really allowed to be questioned,” she said.

Bioethicists Kenneth Goodman, from the University of Miami, says a vaccine is a critical component to re-opening the economy and world.

“Those of our compatriots who don’t want to play by the rules are creating a problem for everyone else. If you’re an airline or you’re a university or you’re another kind of business then it’s within your rights to say we insist that you be a good citizen before we let you in,” Goodman said.

This only applies to in-person learning. Students enrolled in an online only course would not be required to be vaccinated.

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