The LSU Faculty Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution at a council meeting Tuesday urging upper administration to mandate all students to receive a COVID vaccination before the Fall 2021 semester.
Over 600 members of the Faculty Council participated in the vote, with 89.62% voting in favor of the resolution. Interim President Thomas Galligan presided over the meeting, which hadn’t been convened since 2005.
Media and public affairs professor Bob Mann said that there was an initial miscommunication with the university’s administration regarding holding the council meeting, but upper administration was very helpful in organizing the meeting and is very supportive of the faculty meeting to possibly mandate a COVID vaccine.
“If [mandating vaccinations] is deemed not legal, we are asking the university to take every measure possible to ensure the safety of our students,” Mann said.
Law professor Olivier Moreteau said the upper administration’s hesitation to mandate vaccines could have both political and legal reasons. The vaccines currently only have emergency authorization from the FDA; it's hard for the university to mandate them until they get full approval, according to Moreteau. Once the vaccines get full FDA approval [Pfizer is currently first on the list to be approved right now], any legal concerns will become obsolete.
“The general council at LSU is paid to be careful,” Moreteau said. “Maybe their fear is that if anything goes wrong, there are liability issues and may cost money to LSU.”
Moreteau said politically “pushing to a mandate could be counter-productive.” The university could possibly lose money from students and families that oppose the vaccine and could face discrimination charges if they restrict students access to campus based on vaccination status, according to Moreteau.
History professor Meredith Veldman said she believes the council meeting “makes it pretty clear” the faculty desires a mandatory vaccine. Mann said since the Faculty Senate and Student Government also proposed resolutions to require vaccines, the entire LSU community wants mandated vaccines. Now it is up to LSU’s Board of Supervisors to take the next step.
“I hope the board of supervisors chooses to follow science and recognize we all want to return to normal life,” Veldman said. “And the best way to do that is through mandatory vaccinations.”
Mann said he is worried for the upcoming semester because despite the upper administration’s support, he hasn’t seen any softening on their position to not mandate vaccines. He said the current position of the university is a “potential recipe for disaster.”
“It could spark a very sudden shutdown of the university,” Mann said., “And we could go back to online learning like in the spring of last year. Nobody wants that.”
Moreteau said the current discussion to mandate vaccines is facing tough timing. He said if the FDA fully approves the vaccine, it won’t happen until late June or even into July. He said if the upper administration is going to mandate vaccines, to do it sooner rather than later.
“You cannot at the last minute, a few weeks before the start of the semester, tell students they are required to get the vaccine,” Moreteau said. “Don’t wait until it’s certain and settled to make the move.”
Mann said he hopes the university announces mandatory vaccines soon so the university can be a leader to promote health and well-being of students around Louisiana. He said the leadership of the university’s faculty hopefully will inspire other public universities across the state to follow suit.
“We are not fighting administration, we just want administration to go the full way,” Moreteau said. “Let’s give a show of support to the admin to go the extra mile so our students and our community are better protected.”