As West Virginia University students and faculty strongly advocate for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the Board of Governors haven’t put the topic on the agenda for their bimonthly meeting Friday.
“An item regarding this issue was not requested to be added to Friday’s meeting agenda (by Board of Governors members or anyone else),” said April Kaull, executive director of communications. “However, Friday’s meeting will include an update to the Board regarding the COVID-19 virus and the campus community. Management will be presenting on the steps it is currently taking relating to masks and vaccines.”
In a rare assembly of almost all faculty members earlier this month, the WVU faculty voted 1094-185 in favor of a vaccine mandate. The last such assembly was in 2008.
“It's utterly disappointing, because we have such consensus, because our hospitals are full, because people can't get elective surgeries, because we're in the midst of a public health crisis that everybody in the nation is talking about,” said Jared Sims, author of the faculty resolution. “It's just gross negligence to not acknowledge it.”
The jazz professor said his department is particularly concerned about the virus as many classroom activities require students to remove masks.
“It's a detriment to our student’s mental health, to not be able to have concerts, to not be able to have normal rehearsals, to have to be spread out,” Sims said.
“We don't need people carrying the virus into our building,” he added.
The agenda for Friday’s meeting does include a section where Rob Alsop, vice president for strategic initiative, will update board members on how the pandemic has impacted the University’s operations and finance. There is no listed discussion item for a vaccine mandate.
During a joint committee meeting Thursday evening before the full board meeting, board members could discuss the faculty vote or a vaccine mandate during an agenda line item for WVU’s “ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
However, as currently listed, this discussion will happen behind closed doors in an executive session.
Last week, the WVU Student Government Association voted 20-7 to support a mandate as well.
SGA Sen. Donovan Weekley authored the SGA resolution.
“It's disappointing,” said Weekley of the BOG’s decision to not put the issue on their agenda. “That's really all there is to say about it.
In a survey of 5,300 WVU students conducted by the SGA, 59% of students said they supported a vaccine mandate.
WVU administrators have resisted calls for a vaccine mandate, saying that it will do more harm than good.
“I do not believe in a mandate for this vaccine, for the COVID-19 vaccine,” said WVU President E. Gordon Gee at the rare Faculty Assembly meeting earlier this month. “Rarely, and this has been proven time and again, do mandates work. And in this current time, I believe that a mandate will only create more division.”
The Board of Governors is the University’s governing body and has authority over all policies related to WVU finances, business, and education.
“This is a crisis in which we have to look at the common good,” Sims said. “People just have to come to the consensus that the only way to get through this, to get our lives back, is to get the vaccine.”