Students Weigh In On University VitalCheck Policy


Upon returning to school this fall, students were no longer required to complete the symptom checker form that was sent to students each day known as the VitalCheck questionnaire.

Previously, students were not allowed entry to campus without the selection of the option “no symptoms” and submission of the form. The completion of the VitalCheck questionnaire, which lists a series of symptoms related to COVID-19, was implemented in fall 2020.

Are students more prone to be honest on the VitalCheck form given its optionality? Cecelia McNeely, GSB ’23, does not believe so.

“I don’t even think twice about VitalCheck now. I have no reason to even answer the form. If I get sick, I don’t think the first thing I will do is adjust my VitalCheck. I think I will go get a test and go from there,” said McNeely.

However, school administration feels differently regarding the switch to VitalCheck no longer being mandatory. Keith Eldredge, assistant vice president and dean of student services, feels as though the lack of requirement will facilitate greater honesty from students. Eldredge acknowledged the flaws of the previous mandate to complete the form.

“Although everyone was required to respond daily in the past, there was nothing in the screening process itself that compelled someone to be truthful with that response,” said Eldredge.

This opinion was echoed by McNeely: “I know people that didn’t feel good over the past two years and simply didn’t update their VitalCheck. They didn’t want to be locked out of campus just because they had symptoms of something that may or may not have been COVID.”

The fact that students do not have to answer to VitalCheck each day to be permitted on campus coupled with the dropping of the mask mandate, does raise the risk of a potential COVID-19 outbreak on campus, per CDC guidance. Some members of the Fordham community worry it could cause an increase in cases heading into cold and flu season.

Professors are allowed to ask students to wear a mask in their class, but no students are required to wear masks. The waiving of the VitalCheck requirement is joined with relaxed quarantine guidelines, as per the CDC’s recommendation. Students are now required to isolate for only five days and are asked to wear a mask for another five days after their release.

Both policies have caused apprehension and tension amongst students and faculty, with many worried that a lax approach to the pandemic will only foster more outbreaks in the future.

School administration met this challenge with a careful answer: “part of being a student at Fordham is to care for others, and I trust that students will not put others at risk by coming to class or other public venues if they are ill,” said Eldredge.

Some students, like McNeely, are worried about the health of the community. She said, “I do understand that it is important that people do not get certain people sick and everyone stays healthy in general.”

“However, I do not believe that all of the students here feel that way, and with the taking away of masks, testing requirements and VitalCheck almost all the integrity of what was keeping us healthy has been taken away. That is just my opinion.”

Despite this concern, Eldredge is hopeful that students will be truthful with reporting positive cases of COVID-19 as well as answering VitalCheck if they do not feel well.

“I am optimistic that students will continue to be as honest as they have been in the past and will report a positive test for COVID-19 or symptoms that appear to be caused by COVID-19 even though they no longer have to answer the daily questionnaire,” said Dean Keith Eldredge on the issue.