Despite West Virginia University faculty voting 1,094-185 in favor of requiring students and staff to get COVID-19 vaccines, the WVU Board of Governors hasn’t put the issue on its agenda.
The Board of Governors’ agenda for its regular meeting Friday contains no item for the board to vote either way on mandating vaccines.
Board Vice Chairwoman Taunja Willis-Miller deferred comment to WVU spokeswoman April Kaull.
“An item regarding this issue was not requested to be added to Friday’s meeting agenda (by BOG members or anyone else),” Kaull wrote in an email Tuesday, using the acronym for Board of Governors.
Jared Sims, the faculty member who spearheaded the faculty resolution, said “we’ve gotten, frankly, a very tepid response across the board.”
He noted the current strain that COVID-19 cases are placing on hospitals, and said this is a “time-sensitive issue.”
“This is the backbone of the state, this is a huge employer and this is something that we need to be protecting,” he said of the university.
WVU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop is set to update the board Friday on the pandemic’s impact on operations and finance, but there’s not even a discussion item regarding vaccine requirements on the agenda.
“It doesn’t look like they’re even going to address it,” Sims said.
Board members are set to discuss WVU’s “ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic” during a joint committee meeting before the Friday meeting of the full board. But that discussion will likely be private.
That’s because the joint committee’s agenda lists “ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic” as part of a “potential executive session” — meaning a closed board member discussion.
The two committees that are meeting together include, between them, 10 out of the 15 current board members.
That joint meeting begins 4 p.m. Thursday and continues 8:30 a.m. Friday, ahead of the full board meeting at 10:45 a.m.
You can watch the public parts of the joint committee meeting and the full board meeting online via Zoom. Or you can attend in-person in the Ruby Grand Hall of the Erickson Alumni Center, at 1 Alumni Drive, Morgantown, 26506.
On Sept. 3, the WVU University/Faculty Assembly (the name varies) overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting “mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all students and employees by January 1, 2022, with limited legally mandated exceptions.”
Faculty Senate Chairwoman Ashley Martucci, herself a Board of Governors member, wrote in an email that morning that “the resolution and results will be shared with the leadership at West Virginia University.”
In an email this week, Kaull wrote that the “Faculty Assembly’s recent resolution does not call for a vote of the University’s Board of Governors.”
But the Board of Governors is the only WVU body that outranks the WVU president and his administration, who have so far declined to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.
Sims said he didn’t know exactly where the resolution was sent, but said “all of these people are aware of it, regardless of whether they got the formal letter in the mail.”
Alsop, the WVU vice president, told state lawmakers Tuesday morning that “the best approach for us right now is not to require the vaccine but instead to continue to educate about the benefits of vaccination moving forward.”
He said vaccination rates at WVU’s flagship Morgantown campus are nearly 74% for employees and 76% for students.
None of the lawmakers on the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability, to which Alsop presented, objected to the lack of a mandate. Like the full state Legislature, the commission is dominated by Republicans.
“That’s pretty bold,” said Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, praising WVU.