The nationwide stay and the University of Arizona’s COVID vaccine mandate

[Update Dec 11, 2021): Twenty minutes after I published the below post, President Robert Robbins sent a mass email to campus that included a brief acknowledgement of Tuesday’s ruling in Georgia to halt the government’s COVID vaccine mandate. It simply read: “Many of you are aware of the ongoing litigation regarding federal executive orders that imposed vaccine requirements on federal contractors. The University will continue to monitor legal developments and provide guidance to affected employees. In the meantime, we continue to strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and for employees to verify their vaccination status.” Also, later the same day, Northern Arizona University announced that it had suspended its COVID vaccine mandate.]

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On Tuesday of this week, U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker in Georgia issued a nationwide stay that placed a halt on the federal government’s ability to require the COVID-19 vaccine for its contractual workers.

Since then, colleges and university across the nation have also halted their vaccine mandates, including the University of Kansas, the University of Iowa, and the University of Mississippi. The number of universities that are following suit is growing by the hour.

In Arizona, the Maricopa Community College District, which comprises of 10 schools, stopped its vaccine mandate almost immediately after Tuesday’s ruling.

But what about the University of Arizona, or the other two big state universities, namely ASU and NAU? How will they respond?

Up until the writing of this post, UA campus administrators have yet to advise its employees on any changes to their mandate. A quick glance at UA’s vaccine mandate webpage shows that it has not been updated; business as usual.

If the ruling in Georgia prohibits university administrators from mandating the vaccine (which I believe it does), it would significantly hinder their practice of white paternalism on campus, as this would take power away from them – power to tell brown, black, and other white people what do with their bodies.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, white paternalism is alive and well at the University of Arizona. In fact, it now thrives here under the guise of “public health,” and yet few people on campus seem to be disturbed by it. Or are they?

Since publicly voicing my opposition in October, faculty, staff, and students at UA have expressed similar concerns to me. But for good reasons they have chosen to keep their concerns private. I (and they) understand the power dynamics of institutions of higher education. And I am cognizant of my role at UA and position in the academy.

I expect soon that President Robert Robbins will send a mass email to all campus employees regarding the recent ruling in Georgia and any changes to UA’s vaccine mandate. This will be a carefully worded email, as campus administrators do not let go of power easily.

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