As more and more colleges and universities adopt mandatory vaccination policies, the WMU-AAUP is continuing to urge Western to take more assertive campus safety steps. Below is a message sent to the President and Provost this morning reiterating the importance of public health, as well as considerations of shared governance, and the importance of making our campus an attractive option to students and their families.
Dear President Montgomery and Provost Bott,
A few months ago, we reached out to you urging you to do everything possible to respect the faculty’s will that vaccinations be required for all who will be living, working, or studying on campus. As the pandemic continues to rage, fueled by low vaccination rates, we are writing with the same urgent message: please help enact a vaccination requirement at WMU, not because so many of our neighboring institutions have already done so (and 643 colleges and universities nationwide), but because it is the right thing to do, and it reflects the will of the faculty.
As a reminder of the WMU-AAUP’s position about this, please recall that, at an all-member WMU-AAUP meeting, faculty insisted that faculty, staff, and student voices should help determine pandemic safety steps, given their potential life and death impact on WMU, Kalamazoo and beyond. A full Chapter vote followed and the results couldn’t have been clearer: an overwhelming majority agreed that vaccinations should be required, and, further, that faculty should determine the best modality for their course offerings, and other work, during the pandemic.
This Chapter vote reflected specific concerns shared at the Chapter meeting, for example:
-WMU could be perceived as downplaying the pandemic, with images of unmasked students on WMU’s home page. Faculty noted that, despite great uncertainty about safety in upcoming semesters, WMU continued to promise 75% FTF classes in Fall.
-Mixed messages about the determination of upcoming course modalities, including the process and basis for decision-making. Western claimed that faculty have been consulted, but many faculty have reported little evidence of this.
-In addition, faculty have expressed serious concerns about the expectation that they should be charged with enforcing classroom mask policies in an environment in which vaccinations remain voluntary.
As expressed in a petition sent to Governor Whitmer, signed by many WMU faculty who joined over 2000 other members of the Michigan Public University Communities, including faculty, students, and staff, a vaccination mandate could nearly eliminate the risk of severe COVID-19 illness and complications. It would increase safety on campus, attracting students who would otherwise be hesitant to put themselves at risk. It would also signal to all that Michigan’s public universities are science-driven institutions recognizing that vaccination is our civic duty.
In short, there is no clearer statement that WMU could make about shared governance, and campus and public safety, than to honor the clear and unequivocal wishes of WMU’s Board-appointed faculty and announce a vaccination requirement immediately.
Cathryn Bailey, President of the WMU-AAUP
Natalio Ohanna, Vice President of the WMU-AAUP