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University of Michigan faculty want campus-wide COVID vaccine mandate

Refuse the vaccine and you have to meet with a ‘health educator’

Faculty at the University of Michigan have circulated a petition calling on the university to mandate that every student, professor and staff member receive vaccination against COVID as a prerequisite to returning to campus.

And the supporters of the petition say that they would like to see people who refuse the vaccine meet with a “health educator” to go over their objections.

“The approach used by the State of Michigan for K-12 should be used as a guide,” the petition from Professors Michael Atzmon and Rebekah Modrak says, according to a portion shared by Atzmon. “The state requires childhood immunization for those who attend public schools, and parents who claim a non-medical exemption are required to meet with a health educator.”

Atzmon sent The College Fix a link to the petition but it cannot be viewed because of the permission settings. Atzmon has not responded to two requests in the past week for permission for access. The Faculty Senate Assembly also passed a resolution in April calling for mandate vaccines, but it is not available on its website.

“There are many precedents for universities requiring students to be vaccinated COVID-19 and other infectious diseases,” Atzmon told The Fix. He said that the university “has already introduced a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students who live in university housing.”

The Fix asked Atzmon if faculty and staff who refused to take the vaccine should be fired and he pointed to the health education meeting requirement as a possible solution instead.

“Any employee who does not get vaccinated must submit documentation to request either a medical exemption or a religious exemption, which is they [sic] reviewed by committee for approval,” Atzmon told The Fix, sharing a quote from an unnamed Michigan Medicine colleague.

The nuclear engineering professor would have the same standards applied to students who did not want to get vaccinated.

The president of the university, Mark Schlissel, responded to the petition in a May 12 letter shared by Atzmon with The Fix.

“I share your expressed desire that all members of our community – except for rare exceptions for medical or religious reasons – be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible,” the public university’s president said. He said the on-campus housing mandate will stay in place and the university will continue to encourage vaccination.

However, he seemed skeptical of a mandate at the time and pointed to pending legislation to ban vaccine passports.

“While we want as many faculty and staff as possible to be vaccinated,” Schlissel said, “we are not certain that a mandate will result in better success achieving this goal than strong and repeated reminders.”

“Additionally, the Michigan Legislature is considering legislation that would prohibit public
universities from requiring vaccination as a condition for enrollment or for attendance at in-
person classes,” Schlissel said.

University officials “oppose such a measure” but said they “must respect the legislative process as it plays out.”

Depending upon the outcome, we can still place a vaccination requirement on all
students at a later date,” Schlissel said.

Legislation could prevent vaccine proof

House Bill 4667 would “prohibit producing, issuing, or providing an incentive for COVID-19 vaccination passports” and ban government entities from requiring proof of vaccination.

Michigan State University’s faculty council passed legislation on May 25 that calls its university president to mandate vaccines for everyone.

“University Council supports mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty, and staff participating in on-campus activities,” the resolution said, “except as required by law, for those with religious objections, or for those medically unable to receive the vaccine.”

“Students are adults, and if we have different policies for students than for faculty and staff, that creates challenges as well in terms of going forward,” President Samuel Stanley said in explaining his hesitancy about a mandate, according to Michigan Live.

He said some “represented workers,” meaning unionized staff, would have to be negotiated with to add it and some would be exempted.

 MORE: Governor Cuomo exempts faculty and staff from COVID vaccine mandate

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About the Author
Hannah Lalgie -- University of Florida