Update: On Nov. 2, Chancellor Glenn Boyce sent an e-mail to the university notifying the university community that the deadline to receive the vaccine or medical/religious exemption has been moved from Dec. 8 to Jan. 3. The letter also stated that those who do not meet above criteria by the deadline may be separated from employment as opposed to being placed on unpaid leave. The Chancellor’s most recent correspondence can be found here.
The Institutions of Higher Learning board voted to require all faculty, professional staff, support staff and student workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions. The vote amends the board’s previous directive that barred institutions governed by IHL from instating a vaccine mandate.
All affected employees have until Wednesday, Oct. 27 to get their first shot of Moderna or until Nov. 3 to get their first shot of Pfizer. They have until Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, to get their second shot of the two above options or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to President Joe Biden’s vaccine schedule. Proof of full vaccination must be provided by Dec. 8.
The board’s decision is a direct result of Biden’s Executive Order 14042. While the executive order does not mention colleges and universities directly, it does aim to ensure that there are adequate COVID-19 safety protocols for federal contractors. All institutions under IHL’s governance — including the University of Mississippi — are or are likely to be recipients of federal government contracts.
Currently, IHL governed institutions have approximately 120 federal contracts amounting to a combined present value of $271 million, according to a news release from Mississippi Public Universities. Over a third of that amount — or $91 million in active federal contracts — are used by the University of Mississippi.
Because university employees come into contact with these federal contractors, the vaccine mandate is necessary to put the state in compliance with Biden’s executive order.
Chancellor Glenn Boyce sent a letter to the university community Monday evening confirming that the COVID-19 vaccine is now required and outlining other important information, such as how to get vaccinated and information on providing proof of vaccination.
“In order to comply with the Executive Order and task force guidance, all University employees (including faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate student employees) must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, 2021,” he wrote. “Employees must provide the university with proof that they have been fully vaccinated.”
The university will be moving swiftly to ensure compliance with the federal executive order, and will provide accommodations for those who cannot be vaccinated due to a disability or medical condition or because of a sincerely held religious belief, in accordance with direction from IHL. This stands in direct contrast with Mississippi’s laws regarding required immunizations for children for school attendance — only medical exemptions are allowed.
The move directly impacts students as well, specifically student workers. In a letter to all students, Vice Chancellor Charlotte Pegues clarifies that while the mandate is a condition for employment, it is not a condition for enrollment.
“Please note that this vaccination requirement is a condition of employment at the university, not a condition of enrollment. If you are a student who is not employed by the university, you are not required to be vaccinated. The IHL Board kept in place its directive preventing COVID-19 vaccine mandates as a condition of enrollment,” she wrote. “If you are a student employee (graduate or undergraduate) of the University of Mississippi, this vaccine mandate will apply to you and vaccination will be required for employment.”
The university will be providing further direction for all affected persons regarding uploading proof of vaccination and requesting exemption as well as other important action items in the near future.