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University of Mississippi Faculty Considering Vaccine Mandate For Students, Employees

a student wearing a masks studies in the library next to a masked statue of a man
The University of Mississippi Faculty Senate is set to consider a resolution that would call on the administration to require all students, faculty and staff at the University of Mississippi to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Photo by Logan Kirkland/ Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The University of Mississippi Faculty Senate is considering a resolution calling on administrators to mandate that all eligible students, faculty and staff get vaccinated for COVID-19. At an extraordinary UM Faculty Senate meeting tonight, which the Mississippi Free Press listened in on, members discussed a resolution that cites “an obligation to protect the life, health and wellbeing of its students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities” in Oxford.

“BE IT RESOLVED, that the faculty in the Department call on the administration of the University of Mississippi too: A. Initiate a university-wide vaccination mandate for all students, faculty, and staff; and B. Supplement it with weekly testing for individuals who cannot get vaccinated because of exemptions allowed by law; and C. Develop a vaccination campaign and incentives, such as tuition rafles [sic], to speed up the vaccination process…,” the resolution reads.

Among the Faculty Senate, 30 members voted to suspend the rules and allow for the resolution’s adoption, while 13 voted against doing so. The resolution to suspend the rules failed to gain a three-fourths majority, however, meaning the resolution itself will not be considered until the Faculty Senate’s next regular meeting on Sept. 7 when it will need a simple majority to pass.

“Because it was an emergency meeting, and we were discussing a resolution that had not circulated a week in advance, we had to vote to suspend the rules in order to consider it. It was a procedural thing,” a faculty member, who asked not to be named, told the Mississippi Free Press. “And you saw how the vote turned out. … It didn’t clear the bar because it’s got to clear the bar by three-quarters.”

The faculty’s effort to push the UM administration to require vaccination comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which had been available under an emergency authorization prior, on Monday.

‘It’s Damned Important’

During the meeting, at least one Faculty Senate member who voted against suspending the rules and moving forward with the resolution said he was not necessarily against the resolution itself, but against moving forward without giving ample time for it to circulate among the faculty. Some members complained that they had not received a copy of the resolution before the meeting.

The faculty member who spoke to the Mississippi Free Press said that another extraordinary meeting could be called prior to the Sept. 7 meeting once the resolution has had time to circulate.

UM Police Chief Ray Hawkins has his arm up at the window of his car as he receives a vaccine shot
University Police Chief Ray Hawkins received his first dose of the COVID19 vaccine at the drive-thru vaccination site in Oxford, Miss., on Feb. 24, 2021. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“Some of us wanted to get it out there expeditiously because it’s damn important, the timing is important, and I wish some other senators had understood the urgency of this,” the faculty member told the Mississippi Free Press. “But at the same time, it’s also really important that people get a chance to talk to their departments about that, and that didn’t necessarily happen.”

On Aug. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a vaccine mandate at Indiana University, clearing a legal path for others to follow. Since then, other universities and colleges have followed with vaccine mandates, including SEC schools such as Louisiana State University

UMMC Mandates Vaccinations for Students, Staff

The University of Mississippi Medical Center, which is based in Jackson, has already announced that it will require all students and employees to be vaccinated by November. The hospital, which has the state’s only level-one trauma center and only pediatric hospital, is currently overwhelmed with cases. The federal government and Samaritan’s Purse, a private charity organization, is currently helping UMMC operate two field hospitals set up in tents in its parking garage to deal with the overflow.

LouAnn Woodward
LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, announced that, by November, all employees and students on the UMMC campus must be vaccinated or wearing an N95 mask at all times. Photo by Nick Judin

This evening, the Oxford Board of Aldermen voted to require face masks at public places in the city for anyone ages six and older, the Daily Journal’s Blake Alsup reported. The mandate applies indoors as well as outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

After more than 17 months without any concerts, The Lyric Oxford, a popular local music venue, announced on Aug. 17 that it “will now require proof of vaccination or a negative test for entrance to all ticketed concerts.” 

“In the coming days we will be emailing all ticket holders and adding language to our events about how this will all work logistically,” the venue’s Facebook post reads. The Lyric Oxford is set to host live concerts again starting later this week.

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