Dear President Sue Thomas and VPAA Janet Gooch,
Earlier this month, AAUP drafted a petition urging the university to institute a campus-wide vaccine mandate. The petition was formally endorsed by Truman’s student government on September 6 (resolution 121.002), emailed to faculty, and—in the absence of a complete student email list—sent to a limited number of student listservs and community members for electronic signatures. More than 300 members of the Truman and Kirksville community signed it, including more than 100 Truman faculty. We are formally presenting the petition to you so that you may weigh this as you consider whether or not to mandate vaccines on campus.
Based on our outreach to the campus community, and the feedback we have received in the form of written comments and signatures, we see strong support for a vaccine mandate, albeit one that allows for certain exemptions. Even with a high vaccination rate among Truman faculty and students, a mandate would significantly increase the percentage of vaccinated people on campus. Many students and faculty who have indicated in university surveys a willingness to get vaccinated have not yet done so, suppressing the current vaccination rate. A mandate would incentivize them to get vaccinated sooner than later. Those who for medical or other reasons need to opt out could still do so.
Copied below is the AAUP petition and the student government resolution endorsing that petition. As the representative AAUP body on the Truman campus, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to establish a campus-wide vaccine mandate.
AAUP Executive Council
AAUP Petition for a Vaccine Mandate (first sent out September 8, 2021):
We, the undersigned members of the Truman State University and Kirksville community, call upon the Administration of Truman State University to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all members of its community, barring those with medical or religious exemptions.
Click here to sign the petition to endorse the vaccine mandate.
University administrators have to balance multiple, sometimes-competing aims: to provide the right conditions for good education, to protect the health and safety of all members of the campus community, and to preserve the financial security of the institution to ensure its survival. In the context of a global pandemic, many institutions of higher education have found these three charges at odds.
The in-person pedagogy that many of us treasure offers an opportunity for the virus to spread, threatening the physical security of faculty, students, and staff alike; the practices best suited to prevent the spread of the virus elicit politicized resistance which in turn could impact enrollment and the long-term financial well-being of the institution. Evaluating risks and benefits is integral to the task of administration: how much health risk is acceptable? How much threat to enrollment do health measures constitute? All of these calculations are matters of probability: when students are in proximity, how many will fall ill? Of those infected, how many will be seriously impacted? How many students will leave, taking their tuition dollars with them, if they are asked to follow public health best practices?
Universities and colleges across the nation have engaged these questions and answered them variously. Some have remained at drastically reduced levels of in-person instruction, preferring to err on the side of caution. Some, by contrast, have returned to pre-pandemic levels of proximity, at best recommending that students elect to be vaccinated. Some, like Truman State, have chosen a middle ground—neither requiring universal vacations nor maintaining the social distancing of the previous academic year, yet urging vaccination and requiring masks.
The executive committee of TSU’s AAUP commends the Administration’s renewal of a mask mandate as a responsible step toward preventing the spread of the highly infectious delta variant. However, we assert that this is insufficient precaution in light of a) low levels of vaccination in the surrounding community with the consequent rapid rise in infections and increasing burden on local public health resources (e.g. hospital beds), b) recent full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, thereby protecting the institution from any legal accusations of “recklessly” requiring a vaccine inadequately proven, c) the lack of any clear, empirical evidence suggesting that a vaccine mandate would adversely impact levels of enrollment.
On July 13, 2021, President Sue Thomas met with the AAUP executive committee and discussed these concerns. At that time, she cited the Emergency Authorization status of the vaccines and asserted that the possibility of a campus vaccine would depend upon a change in that status. That change has now taken place.
In the meantime, campus COVID cases are on the rise, vaccinated students are sharing dorm rooms with unvaccinated students, and classrooms—while masked—are at pre-COVID levels of personal proximity. All of this, while in the larger context, delta-COVID is burning brightly across wide swathes of the region. A failure to mandate full vaccination at such a time is not respectful of individual liberties; rather it is an unwarranted danger–placing the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike at preventable risk.
What good is solid enrollment if members of our student body are falling sick to a virus with still largely-unknown long-term consequences? How many “long haul” COVID survivors are worth maintaining levels of enrollment? How reassuring will the financial health of the institution be to the parents of a desperately ill undergraduate? How fair a trade-off will this be from the perspective of the professor in her 50s, the grounds crew member in his 60s, who may join the ranks of the disabled, perhaps forever? And how much worse the sense of betrayal, if these outcomes could so easily have been avoided by a simple, responsible, evidence-based administrative decision.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Administration of Truman State University to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all members of its community, barring those with medical or religious exemptions.
Click here to sign the petition to endorse the vaccine mandate.
The Truman State AAUP Executive Committee
Student Government Resolution 121.002
A Resolution Encouraging a COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate at Truman State University and Supporting an AAUP Petition
Sponsored By: Joshua Grandstaff, Health Wellness, and Safety Co-Chair, Tori Woods, Health Wellness, and Safety Co-Chair
- The Student Government is the official governing body of the Student Association and exists to represent the present and long-term best interests of the Student Association in the formulation of University policy and in the fulfillment of the University’s mission;
- There are low levels of COVID-19 vaccination in the surrounding community, with 36% of people within Adair County having completed vaccination1; and
- A rapid rise in COVID-19 infections would increase the burden on local public health2 resources3; and
- The FDA has given full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine4,
- In Universities that have implemented vaccine mandates, students and faculty are complying with such mandates5, and
- Numerous universities across the United States have implemented vaccine mandates, notably Washington University in Saint Louis, the University of California Berkeley, Pennsylvania State University, University of Michigan6, and University of Indiana7; and
- Many other Universities across the country, both private and public, have implemented vaccine mandates8; and
- In Universities with a vaccine mandate, vaccination rates frequently reach upward of eighty percent of full-time students and staff submitting proof they have been vaccinated9; and
- Truman State COVID cases are on the rise10; and
- Mixed vaccination status in the residence halls makes it more difficult for students to make personal safety choices; and
- Classrooms are at pre-COVID levels of personal proximity, thereby reducing social distancing measures the University previously utilized and that the CDC still recommends for Universities without a fully vaccinated population11
- The Truman State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors has circulated a petition calling upon the Administration of Truman State University to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for all members of its community, besides those with medical or religious exemptions12;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT:
- Formally supports the petition put out by the Truman State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors; and
- Formally supports a vaccine mandate at Truman State University.
THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT DIRECTS THAT,
Additional copies of this resolution are disseminated to Dr. Sue Thomas, President; Brooks Miller, Chair of the Truman State University Board of Governors; Dr. Janet Gooch, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs; Janna Stoskopf, Dean of Student Life Affairs; Scott Alberts, President of Faculty Senate; Ernie Hughes, Vice President for University Advancement; Tyana Lange, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing; Melissa Garzanelli, Director of Human Resources; Donna Liss, Chief Information Officer; Nancy Daley-Moore, Associate Professor of Health Science; Lance Ratfliff, Dean, School of Health Sciences and Education; Teri Tucker, Student Health Center (WHNP-BC); Patty Rogers, Student Health Center (BSN, RN); Amy Clendennen, University General Counsel; Jordan Palmer (DO), Head of Student Health Center; The Truman State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors; Alice Davis, Student Health Center APRN, FNP-BC; Lexy Kimber, Student Public Health Association Member; Megan Grossman; The Truman Media Network and University Archives.
Passed 14-0-0, September 6, 2021.
Shania Montúfar, President of the Student Association