Michael Torries

Michael Torries, chair of the WVU Staff Council.

Following the faculty’s vote overwhelmingly in favor of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate last week, the WVU Staff Council is now asking students and staff for their opinions.

Staff Council chair Michael Torries said he hopes to receive enough responses from staff members to better understand their attitudes about a possible mandate.

“We were asked by Dr. Sims, the author of the now-passed faculty resolution, if we wanted to support the faculty in advocating for a mandatory Covid vaccine,” Torries said. “Staff Council thought a poll of the staff would give us a good indication how the classified staff felt on this issue.”

A two-question poll was published last Friday to gauge the overall temper on campus and was open to University classified and non-classified staff, faculty and students.

A “classified employee” is a regular full-time or regular part-time employee whose jobs are assigned to titles, job families and pay grades in the Higher Education Policy Commission pay system.

Torries said that any change in requirement or condition to work for WVU is extremely important to all University employees. He added that a change in vaccine requirements could also have a significant impact on student enrollment.

In last week’s Faculty Assembly meeting, Rob Alsop, vice president for Strategic Initiatives, argued a vaccine mandate would cause further confusion among students and could incite conflict with parents who strongly oppose vaccination.

“I know that there are a lot of folks that want the University to mandate the vaccine right now. We respect that line of thought and understand those who would like to do the mandate right now,” Alsop said. “We do not believe at this moment that a mandate is the best strategy.”

He added that the University feels confident in its current vaccination rates and does not see a prevailing need for a mandate at this time.

“Our health experts believe that a significant percentage of those who have not been vaccinated likely have had COVID-19,” Alsop said. “And a portion of those are likely to develop antibodies for further protection.”

As of Wednesday, 74% of employees and 77% of students have verified their vaccine through WVU’s vaccine verification system.

If the University does not mandate a COVID-19 vaccine, Torries said the Staff Council will evaluate how strongly staff members feel about the issue and will proceed accordingly.

Staff Council members are currently evaluating the data and deciding as a committee on what position to take.

Torries said the survey results will be published on the Staff Council’s webpage sometime early next week.

All classified step members received an email with a link to the poll, and the Staff Council also published it in WVU eNews.

“Although we have taken steps to ensure this poll reflects the views of the classified staff, it will not be a representative opinion of the non-classified staff, faculty or students,” Torries said.