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BOARD OF TRUSTEES VOTES AGAINST SYSTEM-WIDE COVID VACCINE MANDATE

8/27/2021 - Jackson, Miss.

The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning voted against mandating students and employees to show proof of vaccination as a condition of employment or enrollment at a special emergency called meeting held earlier today.

"The Board of Trustees strongly recommends all eligible students and employees within the university system get vaccinated against COVID-19," said Dr. J. Walt Starr, president of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. "The vaccine is clearly the best protection against COVID-19 infections, transmissions, and has been medically reviewed and approved by our country's leading scientific experts. However, the Board does not deem it prudent to require it as a condition of employment or enrollment, except at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other clinical settings."

The Board of Trustees is following the recommendations from the Mississippi State Department of Health's COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for College and University Settings. To date, the Mississippi State Department of Health has strongly recommended eligible students get a COVID-19 vaccine, but has not mandated, nor recommended state institutions of higher learning mandate, a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of attendance.

The universities have worked diligently to encourage and incentivize employees and students to get vaccinated. They have implemented robust outreach campaigns and offered numerous incentives, such as tuition credits, dining dollars, bookstore vouchers, housing credits, gift cards and parking passes, for students who show proof of vaccination. They have also provided numerous opportunities on campus for students and their families, employees and their families, and community members who are eligible to get vaccinated.

The Board noted an exception for the University of Mississippi Medical Center given they care for immunocompromised patients and for students in other healthcare-related programs at the universities, given they may be required by a healthcare provider to get the vaccine to complete clinical hours within that clinical facility.

In keeping with MSDH guidance, all universities require masks to be worn indoors and they are requiring students and employees who have symptoms or have had contact with someone who has tested positive to self-isolate and make an appointment to be tested. The universities are also recommending and facilitating students and employees following other recommendations to mitigate the spread of the virus, including social distancing and checking for symptoms of the virus.

"The Board will continue to monitor the situation on our campuses and make appropriate adjustments and exceptions necessary to assist our universities during these very difficult times," said Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr. Commissioner of Higher Education.

Commissioner Rankins outlined numerous ways the universities are mitigating the spread in an op-ed released earlier this week.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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