The University of Memphis could be one step closer to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations on campus now that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sent its COVID-19 vaccination mandate to the White House for review.
The mandate, which was sent in Oct. 12, would require businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its workforce or force employees to undergo weekly testing.
President Biden initially announced he was charging the Department of Labor, which includes OSHA, with creating the mandate at a press conference Sep. 9 but did not give a deadline for the administration to enact the rule.
"We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said during the press conference.
Before Biden announced the mandate, however, University of Memphis president, Dr. David Rudd, had already showed support for mandatory vaccinations on campus.
“I encouraged the governor to request a vaccine mandate for universities in Tennessee, so I support the need for vaccination broadly for public universities in Tennessee,” he said.
Rudd wrote a letter to Tennessee governor, Bill Lee, at the beginning of the semester, asking him to allow public universities in Tennessee to mandate vaccines for students.
“We have vaccines in place for four other illnesses, three of which are not as deadly as COVID,” Rudd said.
According to its website, the UofM currently employs more than 2.400 staff and full-time faculty. Dr. Teri Box, an adjunct professor in the university’s english department, said that she is on board with an on-campus vaccine mandate.
“We’ve been vaccinating children for many decades before we allow them to go to public school with each other and I feel it’s the same way in any kind of work environment,” she said.
Box teaches multiple classes a week with 90 or more students each, so for her and her colleagues that have similar class sizes, she said it is crucial for them to feel safe while teaching.
“I do not want to play with my health in that respect or my family’s,” she said.
Box also said that sometimes an extra push is what people need to take things more seriously.
“I feel like public health and safety has not been taken seriously enough and quickly enough by most people in this country, and a lot of times people need to be encouraged to do something practical these days like get a vaccine.”
Now that OSHA’s rule has been sent for approval, Rudd reiterated his support for the mandate but said that he is waiting on advice from the state attorney general and the state legislature on how to move forward.
“It seems like the appropriate thing to do to protect the health and safety of the campus.”