KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Faculty members at Western Michigan University are calling for a COVID-19 vaccine requirement this school year.
The WMU AAUP, a union representing faculty, has written an open letter to the university’s president and the provost.
Western announced on Wednesday that it will require masks indoors, including for people who are fully vaccinated.
The union says the majority of its members support a vaccine requirement.
“As the pandemic continues to rage, fueled by low vaccination rates, we are writing with the same urgent message: please help enact a vaccination requirement at WMU, not because so many of our neighboring institutions have already done so (and 643 colleges and universities nationwide), but because it is the right thing to do, and it reflects the will of the faculty,” the letter states in part.
WMU spokesperson Paula Davis says the university has not changed its policy, which recommends but does not require the vaccine.
“To go from strongly encouraging vaccination, which is what we’ve been doing and will continue to do definitely, that’s a big jump,” Davis said. “At this point, leadership is taking the time to be thoughtful and consider the factors.”
WMU says it has in place a long list of safety protocols including the indoor masking requirement, enhanced cleaning and improved ventilation systems. It also provides testing and vaccines on campus.
Western is offering incentives like Starbucks gift cards and scholarship money to encourage vaccination.
“The effectiveness of mask use was demonstrated last school year on campus in that we had no transmission in the classrooms and of course in the classrooms, masks were required,” Davis said.
Davis says the change in masking policy on Wednesday was based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with Kalamazoo County now classified as having substantial transmission.
A survey by the union shows most faculty believe masks alone are not enough to keep the campus safe.
“… an overwhelming majority agreed that vaccinations should be required, and, further, that faculty should determine the best modality for their course offerings, and other work, during the pandemic,” the union letter states.
WMU says it will soon announce the recipients of its vaccine scholarships.