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Rare faculty vote reveals overwhelming support for vaccine mandate

MORGANTOWN — The majority of WVU faculty have voted in favor of a non-binding resolution to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees and students on campus by Jan. 1.

“If we continue with this dance of not having vaccines and having to go back into quarantines and shutdowns, the students aren’t getting what they deserve,” said Jared Sims, author of the resolution and WVU associate professor and director of jazz studies. “That’s really, I think, where the faculty are coming from.”

With 1,094 in favor of the mandate and 185 opposed, the results of the vote will be handed off to WVU administration to make a final decision. 

“We always appreciate and consider input from our campus community,” said WVU Spokesperson April Kaull. “Ultimately, it is an administrative decision made in consultation with our board of governors.”

The vote was conducted as part of a rare, full faculty meeting to address the resolution, which included statements such as: 

  • At least 773 campuses have implemented vaccine mandates for students and/or employees
  • Suspended activities due to COVID-19 outbreaks puts the mental health of students, faculty and staff at risk.
  • FDA has granted full approval of the PfizerBioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • The WVU Health System has already mandated that employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Currently, about 74% of staff and faculty and just under 76% of students are vaccinated. 

Despite the high number of faculty and staff in favor of the vaccine, WVU President E. Gordon Gee said he believes a mandate would cause division on campus.

Kaull said the university announced additional measures on Aug. 17, including reinstating the mask mandate in classrooms and labs. These changes were in anticipation that the university would not reach its original goal of 80% vaccination verification by Sept. 1.

“We are encouraged by the steadily increasing vaccination rates among our students, faculty and staff with our current approach and importantly, the university’s percent positivity rate is low, especially when compared to state and national averages,” Kaull said. 

Since publishing the resolution, Sims said other universities have reached out in hopes of borrowing the language of WVU’s vaccine mandate resolution to create their own. Sims said he believes WVU is moving toward implementing a vaccine mandate eventually, but understands this cannot happen overnight. 

“It’s not speculation and this is not me speaking for just myself,” he said. “This is the full faculty across the university. This isn’t just about creative arts, or just the school of music. This is the entire university.”

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