- Several state conferences of the American Association of University Professors, a faculty group, are urging federal lawmakers to help implement stronger coronavirus safety measures on campus.
- They're asking members of Congress to support expanding President Joe Biden's recent executive order mandating the coronavirus vaccine for certain employers to include all higher education institutions receiving federal funding.
- Additionally, they're requesting that the lawmakers publicly pressure state lawmakers to undo orders that ban vaccine mandates. They also want them to promote vaccine requirements among their constituents.
The AAUP conferences are mostly located in Southern conservative states. They are Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Indiana.
They include groups under state laws or orders banning vaccine and mask mandates, prompting the AAUP groups to ask the federal government for help undoing those measures.
They're asking members of Congress to pressure the Biden administration to include colleges receiving federal funding in the president's recent executive order mandating that private employers with 100 or more workers require employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.
It's still unclear how exactly the order will affect colleges, but it will likely cover some 1,300 private colleges with 100 or more full-time employees, as well as scores of public colleges, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
"Biden announcing his federal mandate gave us an opening," said Matthew Boedy, president of the AAUP's Georgia conference. He's in the process of setting up meetings with several of the lawmakers he contacted about the issue.
Recent protests at Georgia's public universities spurred the conferences to take action. Weeklong demonstrations this month were designed to push the University System of Georgia to mandate masks or vaccines, but officials haven't buckled under the pressure.
"For these kind of problems to be happening in institutions of higher education is especially frustrating because we're the institutions that are doing the science," said Irene Mulvey, AAUP president. She added that ignoring science is a "moral failure of leadership."
Mulvey said the national AAUP organization is supporting faculty protests for stronger coronavirus measures on campus. It also recently called on higher ed institutions to follow public health guidance.
Roughly 50 professors in the University of Georgia's health sciences department are also planning to take action by implementing mask mandates in their classrooms next month, flouting system guidance.
System Chancellor Teresa MacCartney responded this week in a letter to the professors planning their own mask mandates, telling the instructors their action was "not necessary" in the wake of declining coronavirus cases on campus and throughout the state.
"These faculty probably feel like they're in a building that's on fire, and they're being prohibited from using fire extinguishers," Mulvey said.