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'We are concerned': FEC discusses rise in COVID-19 cases, potential for vaccine mandate

FEC meeting 08.04.png
The Faculty Executive Committee held a special meeting on Aug. 4.

Members of the UNC Faculty Executive Committee discussed fall semester plans, vaccine mandates and COVID-19 testing protocol at their meeting Wednesday.

The discussion comes as schools and universities across the U.S. grapple with whether to require vaccines — and if they have the legal ability to do so.

What’s new? 

  • Fifteen private colleges and universities in North Carolina have required vaccinations in some form for the fall semester, according to a list from University Business.
    • Kurt Ribisl, professor of health behavior, said the delta variant spreads faster and is more virulent than the original COVID-19 strain.
  • The University is approaching 25,000 students — 94 percent of the student body — who have attested to their vaccination status, according to Provost Bob Blouin. Of those students, 88 percent have provided some documentation that includes the state where they were vaccinated, the specific vaccine they received and dates of vaccination.
    • Chairperson Mimi Chapman and other committee members expressed support for random auditing of vaccination statuses to uphold University Honor Code standards in response to recent allegations of students submitting fake vaccine cards to circumvent testing requirements.  
  • Blouin said he and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz do not have the authority to mandate vaccinations.
    • “We would be allowed to require individuals to attest to their vaccination status, as long as they have the option not to divulge whether they’re vaccinated or not,” Blouin said. 
  • COVID-19 testing is required once a week for students choosing not to obtain a vaccination or disclose their vaccination status, Blouin said.
  • He also said the likelihood of UNC switching to fully remote classes for the fall semester is very low.
  • UNC classrooms are not currently set up with physical distancing constraints, with the expectation that the majority of people in the room would be vaccinated and wearing a mask, according to Blouin.
  • The FEC shared a resolve, stating, "We are concerned that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, primarily among unvaccinated people, poses a threat to our health care system, our town, and ultimately our campus and academic programs."
  • In the resolve, FEC members requested that the UNC System delegate authority to the UNC-CH Chancellor and Provost to require proof of vaccination for students and employees, as well as provide masking guidance and gathering limits based on community viral load and health care system capacity.

How was the committee formed? 

  • The first faculty committee at UNC was established when the University opened its doors in 1795. It has evolved into a shared governance with the Board of Trustees in representing faculty voices in University policy decisions. 

Who is on the committee? 

  • The Faculty Executive Committee is made up of 14 professors. 
  • Mimi Chapman, associate dean of doctoral education in the School of Social Work, is the chairperson of the committee.
  • Provost Bob Blouin and Neel Swamy, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, also attended the meeting. 

What’s next? 

  • The next faculty governance meeting will be that of the Committee on Appointments, Promotions and Tenure on Aug. 11. It will be in closed session.

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