COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri is warning employees they may be required to comply with a federal vaccine mandate.
Earlier this school year, the University of Missouri System Board of Curators decided to not require a COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty, and staff. Under an executive order signed by President Joe Biden, federally-contracted employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8th, but Mizzou hasn’t said whether or not it will comply.
“The university would have the decision to follow the mandate or not, and then there are consequences and that’s what we are trying to determine, what are those consequences,” Mizzou Communications Director Christian Basi said Wednesday.
A letter was sent to the campus community Tuesday in response to Biden’s executive order last month, requiring vaccination and mask mandates for faculty, staff, and student workers by Dec. 8. The email said the university is still determining its response to the federal mandate.
The UM System includes the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC), Missouri Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL), and Mizzou. The email went on to say the system has dozens of contracts through the federal government.
“Of the federal contracts that we have, of the various grants that we have, what falls under that federal mandate,” Basi said. “That’s been something we’ve been reviewing for quite some time.”
Those contacts fund millions of dollars of research for things like cancer along with projects that support national defense for the Army, Navy, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The money also goes towards extensive research for agricultural advances. It also provides medical care to veterans.
The letter also listed who is an employee that falls under the mandate, which includes a person working directly on government contracts, someone working in connection with a government contract, like a supporting department, and individuals working at the same location or who may come in contact with a contracted employee.
“The people you are interacting with, are they underneath the federal mandate?,” Basi said. “There are a lot of questions that we still have that we are trying to navigate.”
It’s also how some faculty, staff, and student workers are paid.
“If you are a student here at the university and you are not employed by the university, you would likely not be under the federal mandate, beyond that, that’s where we get into who is under that and who is not,” Basi said.
Basi said Mizzou administrators are also looking at what other states and universities are doing when it comes to if they are implementing the federal vaccine mandate.
Abby Stetina is a junior at Mizzou who works at Ellis Library on campus. She said she’s in favor of the federal vaccine mandate.
“I don’t think any of my peers would leave because of the vaccine mandate,” Stetina said. “I feel safer when all my friends are vaccinated, when all of the students around me are vaccinated, so a vaccine mandate for the faculty would be beneficial.”
Basi said the university is still unsure if a university employee choosing not to get vaccinated would result in being terminated. Stetina said she doesn’t think faculty and staff should be fired if they don’t get the vaccine.
“I believe that teachers should probably get tested quite often if they don’t receive the vaccine which I know is an inconvenience for many people that might just lead teachers to just leave instead of being asked to leave,” Stetina said.
As for students, either employed by the university or not, she would like a mandate for all.
“I’m all for every student being vaccinated,” Stetina said. “I think they chose to come to Mizzou, Mizzou accepted them and it’s up to Mizzou whether or not they are allowed to stay here and if them being unvaccinated is a point of concern, a safety concern, then I think more needs to be done.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, along with 10 other attorneys general filed a lawsuit Friday, suing the Biden administration over the federal vaccine mandate. Less than 24 hours before filing the suit, Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order blocking any entity under the executive branch from requiring a person to get the COVID vaccine if the individual objects due to medical or religious reasons.
“I think the road we are going down is extremely dangerous with just not following the constitution, but the federal government has no business doing this,” Parson said Friday in a one-on-one interview with our Missouri Capitol Bureau Chief Emily Manley. “Our universities can make decisions what’s best for them, we don’t need the federal government to do that.”
Parson’s order requires the executive branch to cooperate fully and timely with the attorney general’s litigation against any federally imposed COVID vaccine mandate.
It also does not allow any board, commission, or any other entity under the executive branch to penalize a person for not taking a vaccine due to medical or religious reasons.
“If you’re getting research money from the federal government, is the threat you’re going to take away a kid’s education because you won’t take a vaccine?” Parson said. “I mean seriously, does that really help anything? Are you going to stop research that may be very well developing another vaccine because someone didn’t take a vaccine?”
Basi said the UM Board of Curators will have to vote on if the entire system follows the federal vaccine mandate. A meeting is set for later this month in St. Louis.
The White House has put a deadline in place, requiring federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8.
Employees who have been vaccinated are encouraged to submit documented proof to the university to help with an efficient implementation policy if needed in the future.