UM faculty survey: Most support mandatory COVID-19 vaccination

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Most instructors at the University of Michigan think COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for all faculty, staff and students, with limited medical or religious exceptions — or if not, instructors should be able to opt out of in-person instruction, according to results of an informal survey obtained by The Detroit News. 

Faculty Senate members, clinical faculty and lecturers were asked whether they would support a university mandate that all students, faculty and staff be vaccinated, with limited medical and religious exceptions — an expansion of a current requirement for students who want to live on the Ann Arbor campus this fall.

The instructors also were asked if they should be able to opt-out of in-person teaching, should such a mandate not be adopted. 

"I strongly believe vaccination is necessary at an institution of our size," said Faculty Senate Chairman Allen P. Liu, who sent out the survey. "The vaccine is probably the most effective tool for us right now, and it puzzles me that we aren't actually using the best tool that is available to ensure the safety of faculty, staff and students."

Among the Faculty Senate, 1,484 out of 4,297 members responded to the survey, with 89.1%, or 1,305, saying Yes, they support mandatory vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff.

Among clinical faculty, 487 of 2,024 responded, with 88%, or 418, voting Yes on the vaccine requirement.  And among 399 of 1,169 lecturers who responded, 85.1%, or 339, said they support a mandate. 

Asked if instructors should be able to opt out of in-person teaching if the University of Michigan doesn't mandate vaccinations, 76% of Senate Faculty members, or 1,054 of those who responded, said instructors should be able to opt out.  

Among clinical faculty, 67.3%, or 288 of those who responded, think faculty should be able to opt out of in-person teaching if vaccinations are mandated, as did 89.5% of lecturers, or 333 respondents. 

The question of whether COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory has been hotly debated across the country, and some Michigan institutions have adopted vaccine requirements.

All Henry Ford Health System workers are required to vaccinated by Sept. 10, while the private University of Detroit Mercy is requiring all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 16 for the fall term. 

Delta Air Lines, which has a main hub at Detroit Metro Airport, is mandating that new employees but not existing staffers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Liu said he's written University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, Provost Susan M. Collins and Jordan B. Acker, chair of the Board of Regents about the issue. Even if a mandate is adopted he added, it could not be implemented before the start of the fall term due to the length of time it takes for people to receive both doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. 

"The administration has received the ballot results from the faculty and will be looking into this further," Liu said. "They are looking at considering various types of mandates in the future."