Appalachian State University

App State Faculty Senators want all students returning in the fall semester to be vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their return to campus.

The Faculty Senate passed the resolution at its April 12 meeting that requests the North Carolina Legislature, the governor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the University North Carolina System president, the UNC Board of Governors or the administration of Appalachian State to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students while allowing for religious and medical exemptions.

At least one university in North Carolina is requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning in the fall. Duke, a private university in Durham, announced April 9 it would require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine before they can enroll in the fall 2021 semester.

According to the university, the policy applies to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students — in all degree programs — who intend to be on the Duke campus for any period of time during the fall 2021 semester.

Michael Behrent, the App State Faculty Senate chair, said on April 16 that Norma Houston — the chief of staff to UNC system president Peter Hans and also a lawyer— told the UNC Faculty Assembly that the UNC System office does not have a plan to impose a vaccination mandate. Behrent said she believes that the UNC System office does not have the legal authority to mandate vaccination.

Behrent also noted that many faculty had questions related to the requirement of vaccines, especially since Duke has required it.

“She thinks this authority resides either with the North Carolina Commission for Public Health or the General Assembly,” Behrent said in an email. “The legislature could pass a law, but this would be a lengthy process.”

App State spokesperson Megan Hayes confirmed that as a state government entity, App State cannot unilaterally mandate vaccines for employees or students.

The Faculty Senate also discussed changes to the Faculty Handbook section on grievance procedures. According to Behrent, the Faculty Governance Committee decided to undertake a complete rewriting and reformatting of the grievance process based on a series of recent and longstanding issues relating to the faculty grievance process.

The result is a 36-page change to the handbook that makes the grievance-related sections of the handbook clearer and more cohesive while also introducing changes.

One change clarifies that are more opportunities for a resolution before decisions are made to maximize the potential for avoiding grievances. Another change allows lawyers and advisers to attend grievance and due process hearings, and in meetings prior to a hearing.

The changes will be voted on at the April 26 meeting.

The senate also approved a resolution condemning anti-Asian violence and racism that was created by Anthony Chow, Faculty Senate chair at UNC Greensboro.

“In the spirit of moving forward to try and prevent further tragedy, with the same sense of urgency, we formally request an immediate condemnation of this hate crime by our UNC System leadership inclusive of President Hans, our UNC System Board of Governors, and every UNC System institution,” the resolution reads. “Strategically and assertively, our system must respond to the escalating racial tensions in our nation which have the potential to erode the fabric, core and pillars of the mission of our UNC System: to, ‘discover, create, transmit and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society.”

It asks that the UNC System condemn all acts of violence and racism with a particular focus on the growing attacks on Asian seniors or any aggression or microaggressions toward UNC System Asian students, staff, faculty and their families.

It also tasks the UNC System with implementing six action steps recommended by the UNC System Racial Equity Task Force that can be found at tinyurl.com/mhm93rzj. It also states the UNC system should convene an Anti-Asian Violence and Racism Task Force of faculty, staff, and students to study the problem and recommend specific long-term solutions.

Finally, the resolution asks that the UNC system “allocate funds to sponsor forums led by national experts both at UNC System institutions and within our local communities to discuss racial tension in general, and specifically provide an accurate history and depiction of what it is like being Asian in North Carolina and America and the stereotypes and racism experienced by many.”

“Anti-Asian sentiment, simply put, represents racism,” the resolution states. “All would agree this is not new and has been historically experienced across various intersectional boundaries — in schools, neighborhoods, workplace, social settings, in the mass media and our local communities — in relative silos of silence.”

The next meeting of the App State Faculty Senate is on April 26.

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