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University Continues With Employee Vaccine Mandate Ahead of Possible Legal Challenges

COVID-19 sign on Student Union door

COVID-19 Sign on Campus | Photo by Caitlin Shatsby | The Wright State Guardian

Wright State University (WSU) keeps the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place with university faculty supporting the initiative while challenges to COVID protections continue in Ohio courts.

COVID legislation

WSU’s employee vaccine mandate took effect Jan. 4, 2022. All WSU employees, including student employees, were required to have at least one dose of an approved COVID vaccine or submitted an exemption through the Office of Disabilities Services.

President Joe Biden initiated this mandate in September 2021, with an executive order mandating that employers with over 100 employees require vaccination against COVID for their employees. WSU falls under this category.

Since its inception, there have been petitions and bills introduced to combat the order’s effectiveness. For Ohio, House Bill (H.B.)  218 challenges an employee mandate and Senate Bill (S.B.) 209 challenges masking requirements.

Vaccine mandate challenges 

H.B. 218 would prevent a university like WSU from requiring any student or employee to receive a COVID vaccine. Passed in the Ohio House of  Representatives, the bill is now in the Ohio Senate Budget committee. The chances of the bill passing are uncertain.

Additionally, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office rejected the Vaccine and/or Gene Therapy Choice and anti-Discrimination petition, a legal petition that challenged vaccine mandates.

Mask mandate challenges

S.B. 209, if passed, would prevent a university from issuing a campus-wide mask mandate for classes and activities. 

“The state board of education, the department of education, and the board of education of any school district shall not require any individual, including students, teachers, other school employees, and visitors, to wear a facial covering to attend or participate in in-person instruction, school-sponsored athletics, or another school-sponsored extracurricular activity, or in any other place on school premises,” according to the bill. 

The bill is still being discussed in the Senate general committee. 

Faculty response 

Some WSU faculty have expressed support of an employee COVID vaccine mandate as well as continuing the mask mandate on campus. 

Dr. Valerie Stoker, a professor in religion and research, expressed support for the vaccine mandate and thinks that the mandate should be extended to all WSU students, not just those who are also employees. 

“I fully support the vaccine mandate for faculty and staff and believe we should also have a vaccine mandate for students,” Stoker wrote. “The mask mandate is also very important because, as we’ve seen with Omicron, we can have variants that evade vaccination and our campus will not be able to function well if too many staff, faculty and students are out sick.”

WSU’s response

In a campus-wide communication sent Dec. 22, 2021, the university’s human resources department explained the current COVID vaccine mandate legislation and stated the university’s position on the matter. 

“The university has not withdrawn or modified its employee COVID-19 vaccination requirement and has no current plans to do so,” the communication states. 

WSU Director of Communications Seth Bauguess reports no change in this position.

Jamie Naylor

News Reporter