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University of Mississippi Faculty Senate Votes To Mandate COVID Vaccines

students walking around campus, some wearing masks, at the University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi Faculty Senate endorsed a resolution calling for a campus-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all students, faculty and staff with limited exceptions during a Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. Photo by Kevin Bain/University of Mississippi Marketing Communications

An 89% majority of the University of Mississippi Faculty Senate voted this evening in favor of a resolution urging the administration to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all students, faculty and staff.

Only six of the body’s 54 members voted against the resolution during the Tuesday evening meeting, most of them representing the UM School of Business. Faculty members representing the school’s pharmacy and biology departments voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, noting that “the University of Mississippi has an obligation to protect the life, health, and well-being of its students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities.”

“BE IT RESOLVED, the University of Mississippi Faculty Senate calls on the administration of the University of Mississippi to: Initiate a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for all students, faculty, and staff, with exemptions allowed by law and policy,” the document reads.

On its own, the resolution does not have the power to make policy on the Oxford campus, but it does serve as a formal request for the university’s administration to implement a vaccine mandate. The resolution says it “calls on other representative bodies at the university, such as the Staff Council and the Associated Student Body, to support this resolution.”

The Tuesday night vote comes less than two weeks after the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, which oversees the state’s colleges and universities, voted against mandating COVID-19 vaccines

The two physicians on IHL Board provided the only dissenting votes at that meeting after urging their fellow trustees to support a vaccine requirement. Other IHL trustees expressed concerns that college and university students who oppose vaccination could withdraw their enrollments if a mandate was implemented.

Tuesday’s University of Mississippi Faculty Senate resolution notes that Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and that face-to-face instruction returned this fall at a time when hospitals statewide have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

The “conjunction of these factors is likely to result in student and faculty absenteeism in face-to-face courses because of Covid-19 infections, quarantines, and caregiving responsibilities and in Covid-19 related hospitalizations and deaths among students, faculty, staff, their households, including children under 12 not eligible for vaccines, and other community members,” the resolution says.

The resolution points out that students at the university “are already required to be vaccinated and/or provide proof of immunity against other communicable diseases, such as measles, mumps and rubella” and that “the reason for such a requirement, as per the University Health Services Department, is to prevent outbreaks of such communicable disease.”

The faculty senators last considered a resolution calling for a vaccine mandate during an emergency meeting on Aug. 24, but delayed consideration of the resolution until tonight due to a procedural hurdle. Nationwide, more than 1,000 colleges and universities have initiated COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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