A month after OU announced that the vaccine’s mandate was extended from residents only to all students and staff coming to campus for work and classes, faculty and students still have unanswered questions on the warrant. The main question is how exactly the mandate is applied. So what do we know?
Since the mandate launch on August 23, specific dates have been set for which injections must be completed and uploaded to the Graham Health Center portal. Initial deadlines have been set as the first shot by Friday September 3 and the second shot for Moderna and Pfizer by Friday October 1. On Saturday September 4, an email from Campus Communications announced an extension of the one week deadline until September 10 for first injections and October 8 for second doses.
August 26, guidelines for religious and medical vaccine exemptions have been announced. The Medical Exemption Form involved two steps: having a licensed and qualified medical provider complete the OU Student Medical Exemption Request Form, and having the student complete and submit their request for medical exemption for students respectively. For religious exemptions, students had to complete the Religious Belief Exemption Request. Professors and staff had separate forms to fill out for religious and medical exemptions. Additionally, anyone with an exemption is subject to a weekly COVID-19 test. The tests became available to students on Monday, September 20.
On September 13, an email from the President’s Perspective was circulated to the campus community in which President Ora Pescovitz encouraged students to “be sure to do all you can to stay healthy and protected from the contraction or spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 virus. Make sure you are vaccinated and wear a mask inside. The vaccination rate on campus is steadily increasing and we plan to meet our goal of a fully vaccinated campus. This email is the most recent formal update from the administration on the mandate.
According to the latest information from the university COVID-19 Dashboard at the time of writing, 73% of students (10,511) have downloaded their status with at least one dose, 9% of students (1,279) have received medical or religious exemptions, and 18% of students (2,608) do have not downloaded. For campus employees, 76% (2,188) downloaded at least one dose, 3% (96) received exemptions, and 20% (588) did not download.
It should be noted that a part of the students who did not respect the upload of their documents take courses entirely online and therefore do not come to campus, so they do not technically violate the mandate. The exact number of these students is unknown to the university.
Despite the September 10 deadline, the breach of the mandate did not result in any disciplinary action from the university. Instead, the university reached out to non-compliant people to register and encourage them to upload their documents.
“After this deadline, we sent an email to all the students who had not yet uploaded something to the portal to show that they had at least started the vaccination process… [And those that] had no approved exemption on file ”, Dean of Students Michael wadsworth noted. “… An email was sent to all these students to remind them of the mandate, to encourage them [to] Over the next week, upload their information to the portal if they had been vaccinated.
It’s unclear at this point what will happen to students who still haven’t complied once we pass the October 8 deadline. Speculation based on the university’s communication has been that these non-compliant people will be removed from their classes. A massive dropout of non-compliant students seems impossible given the way the mandate is currently being enforced.
The university has linked compliance with the vaccine mandate to the student code of conduct, which means that due process is involved before any disciplinary action is taken for non-compliance. This would suggest a case-by-case analysis and hearing for each of the more than 2,000 students who have not currently complied or who have not been granted exemptions before disciplinary action is applied.
“If anyone is charged with an alleged violation… [they] would have the opportunity to come for a meeting with our office and we would involve them in the process, ”said Wadsworth. “Students have a choice. They can either say, “Okay, I’m in violation, give me a sanction” … Or students have the option to say, “I am not in violation, I don’t think I violated the code of conduct of the students. students. ‘They have the right in this process to choose a driving hearing. This is where there would be an ethics committee hearing. Typically, between four and six people would hear the case and determine whether or not the student is responsible for an offense.
The administration’s lack of clarity regarding warrant execution procedures sparked criticism and discontent from OR AAUP Faculty. The union criticized the deployment of the mandate as being too late because the OU was two to three weeks behind other public universities in the state by announcing his mandate. The August 23 announcement effectively made it impossible to fully vaccinate students before the start of the September 2 semester.
“There are concerns because we started so late,” said Karen Miller, OU AAUP president and associate professor of history. “… If we had ruled out this possibility at the beginning of August, it would be reasonable to expect everyone to be vaccinated before the first day of class … Now we are looking at [Oct. 8 as] when they’re going to start investigating and putting the students in front of steering committees… And it’s just terribly late.
The percentage of exemptions is another concern for professors, not only for the possibility of spread, but also because the Delta variant of COVID-19 can be devastating for those infected. Currently, the OU is at 9% exemptions, the majority of which are religious exemptions. In comparison, The University of Michigan is at 2% total exemptions.
“My concern is that you are going to get [students] who for some reason don’t believe in vaccinations in an environment with a lot of COVID and are going to bring it to campus, ”Miller said. “Now you’re supposed to be tested once a week… My concern is if the testing regimen breaks down, and these kids who don’t have COVID vaccines are getting COVID, bringing it to campus, and exhibiting people in the CO or in the classroom or the gym… We could become a COVID hotspot… Not to mention the people who don’t get vaccinated and then get really sick. Because apparently the [Delta Variant] makes you really, really sick.
While professors have been involved in the process of preventing the spread of COVID-19 on campus, by applying mask warrants and social distancing in their classrooms, they have been specifically asked not to inquire on the vaccination status of a student.
“We are not allowed to know if there is anyone in the class who is not vaccinated,” Miller said. “We are told that eventually we will get the wrong numbers. So, you will be told if you have a class of 25 students, that one of them is not vaccinated… Hypothetically, this is supposed to happen.
With just over two weeks to go until the Oct. 8 deadline, the university will continue to reach out and encourage students to participate in the term.
“We have online educational modules that we will send out to students dealing with COVID-19 vaccination and general information,” Wadsworth said. “There are going to be at least two more times when we are going to try to involve the students before it comes to this. [Oct. 8] deadline… The last thing we want to do is lose students for whatever reason.