The UC Administration recently announced that the vaccine mandate for students will not be enforced until after the Spring 2022 semester. AAUP-UC strongly believes that this decision is wrong-headed and dangerous. We are also deeply troubled by the lack of shared governance leading up to the decision, along with the poor communication surrounding it.
The purpose of vaccine mandates is to ensure the health and safety of everyone on all of our UC campuses, and there is no dispute that the higher the vaccine rates, the safer our community will be. Failing to enforce the mandate for students makes our campuses less safe. Numerous other universities, including regional neighbors Miami University and Xavier University, have shown thoughtful leadership by enforcing sound vaccination policies that protect their faculty, staff, and students. UC has failed by comparison.
This decision to delay enforcement of this policy sends a message that the Administration does not value the safety of UC faculty, staff, or students. Such a message not only damages morale but also threatens recruitment and retention. The decision also compromises the Administration’s credibility to enforce health and safety measures—and disciplinary actions more generally—moving forward. A mandate that turns out not to be mandatory is not a mandate at all. Accordingly, many students and employees will conclude that they don’t have to take the Administration’s word seriously.
Finally, the way this decision was communicated to Faculty and Staff effectively obscured this critical policy change. Remarkably, there has been no direct communication from President Pinto. Instead, the news was buried in a routine-looking “update” email from Provost Ferme and was delivered while Faculty were wrapping up exams and finalizing grades.
In light of this ill-considered policy change, AAUP-UC demands that the Administration takes the following actions:
- Announce and enforce increased testing and masking requirements, along with other well-established health and safety protocols. A mask mandate must be maintained and enforced on all UC campuses during Spring semester.
- Design and implement an effective strategy to communicate these safety protocols to the entire UC community. This strategy must include engagement at the presidential level.
- Prohibit students from enrolling in Summer 2022 or subsequent semesters unless they have been fully compliant with the current mandate. We implore the administration to use the leverage of preventing future enrollment, which is a concrete consequence that has a better chance of shaping student behavior than a vague threat of disciplinary action at some point after the end of the semester.
- Locate additional vaccination and testing resources on the regional campuses, where rates of vaccination among students are lowest.
- Communicate the number of confirmed cases, vaccination rates, and other critical health and safety data to the UC community weekly.
- Schedule President Pinto to meet immediately with AAUP-UC and Faculty Senate representatives to discuss their concerns regarding health and safety issues and working conditions.
We believe these action steps provide the best path forward and will keep all of our campus communities as safe as they can be, given the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic that is still with us.
As always, the AAUP-UC stands ready to work with the Administration and Faculty Senate in an environment of shared governance.
AAUP-UC Executive Council