BATON ROUGE—Hundreds of LSU faculty members voted Tuesday for a resolution calling on the university to require students to receive COVID-19 vaccines before returning in the fall.
A preliminary vote count showed the resolution passing with 88% of the votes at a meeting that was held online and attended by professors and members of the public.
LSU officials were checking the roughly 650 votes to eliminate any not cast by full-time faculty members. They expected to have a final vote tally on Wednesday.
The resolution was sponsored by 10 faculty members, and it followed similar votes by the LSU faculty and student senates to mandate vaccines.
In the resolution, faculty members said they recognized that there could be legal questions about requiring COVID vaccines before the Food and Drug Administration gives permanent approval to them.
So far, the vaccines have been distributed under emergency use authorizations. The faculty members want LSU to add the vaccines to the list of required vaccinations and immunizations for all students as soon as the FDA gives them full approval.
LSU and other public universities in Louisiana have strongly encouraged students to get vaccinated and made vaccine available.
The resolution also calls on LSU to set up an incentive program — offering on-campus housing rebates, cash payments or free parking – for students to get the vaccines if a mandate is legally impossible.
The resolution calls for a universal mask mandate on campus and immediate restoration of social distancing measures, such as limiting capacities to no more than 50% of maximum occupancy for classrooms and other indoor campus spaces.
Tuesday’s gathering was the first meeting of the LSU Faculty Council, which is open to faculty members, since 2005. After the vote, LSU Interim President Tom Galligan said he would consider the resolution and the legal issues and refer the matter to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Dr. Charles Berryman, professor and construction management department chair, urged faculty members to vote no on the resolution. He said there was a risk of litigation if a requirement was imposed and that he preferred to see LSU use money for faculty salary raises rather than lawsuits.
The faculty resolution noted that roughly 400 other colleges and universities have already required vaccines and that only about 20% of Louisianians ages 18-29 have been vaccinated so far.
Three private universities in Louisiana–Tulane, Dillard and Xavier–have announced vaccine mandates for the fall. But the state’s public universities face political opposition to any vaccine requirement.
The Louisiana House passed a bill last week banning state agencies from discriminating against students or anyone else based on their vaccination status, and the Senate will consider it soon. And on Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted a mask mandate at K-12 schools and other COVID-19 restrictions.
Professors have expressed concern that a relatively low vaccination rate could place instructors and students, especially those with immune disorders at risk, and lead to disruptive outbreaks.
“We call on the university leaders and administration to take bold action—now,” faculty organizers said in a press release. “We want to welcome students back to our classrooms and laboratories in the fall. A vaccine requirement is the best way to ensure that this can safely happen.”