LSU faculty members call for COVID-19 vaccination mandate

A group of LSU faculty members is urging the university to institute a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students, faculty and staff.

At its Tuesday meeting, the LSU Faculty Council will consider a resolution—written by an ad hoc committee of eight faculty members—that calls on LSU officials to join 380 colleges and universities nationwide in mandating COVID-19 vaccinations.

In a statement released today, the committee lays out various reasons for implementing a systemwide mandate, pointing to data showing that, in mid-May, fewer than 20% of Louisianans in the 18-29 age bracket have received the COVID-19 shot.

“A vaccination requirement is a reasonable, unexceptionable response to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic,” the statement reads. “After all, LSU already requires vaccinations for a number of diseases, and it has procedures in place to allow students to opt-out of these requirements for health, religious or moral reasons.”

COVID-19 vaccination requirements are also recommended by the American College Health Association, with some of LSU’s peer institutions among the 380 colleges and universities nationwide that have taken steps to require vaccinations on their campuses.

With a vaccination requirement, the committee says, these institutions will be able to return to normal operations this fall. But without one, the committee warns that LSU will need to curtail its operations with “cumbersome mitigation policies,” and student learning, well-being and satisfaction will suffer as a result.

The faculty members contend that now is the time for LSU to take action, citing reports of increased hospitalizations among young adults infected with coronavirus as well as the rise of coronavirus variants. They also reference Gov. John Bel Edwards’ news conference two weeks ago, in which the governor said vaccination rates in Louisiana were slowing.

Also in the statement, the committee makes a pointed reference to LSU’s alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations, saying LSU has made “a series of misguided decisions that had tragic consequences” over the last decade. 

“[LSU] opted for inaction rather than action, silence rather than transparency. Student safety was jeopardized,” the statement reads. “Let’s learn the right lesson from this shameful period in our university’s history.”

LSU has previously sent messages to employees explaining that the university cannot legally mandate the vaccine “due to it being for emergency use” currently.

“We understand that some faculty are concerned about us not requiring the vaccine right now,” LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said in a prepared statement this afternoon. “As a public university in Louisiana, LSU cannot require the vaccine at this time.” 

Louisiana law states that only vaccinations included in a schedule published by the Louisiana Department of Health can be required, he says. LDH has not required COVID-19 vaccinations at this stage because the vaccines have only received emergency-use approval from the FDA.