The Nevada Faculty Alliance (NFA), which represents higher education faculty in the Silver State, yesterday called for mandatory testing and vaccinations for students, faculty and staff.
“Our shared goal is to teach in-person in a safe manner,” said Kent Ervin, NFA representative. “Widespread vaccination is the most effective and safe way to prevent serious illness and reduce transmission from all current variants of COVID-19.”
The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) this week announced masks will be required at all NSHE institutions but only inside campus buildings.
“Effective Friday, July 30, 2021, all unvaccinated and vaccinated NSHE students, employees, and members of the public will be required to wear a face covering while inside any building or structure on any NSHE campus or property,” NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose wrote in a memo. Exceptions are in Humboldt and Lander counties. “This new mandate may remain in effect until the vaccination rate increases and the level of COVID-19 transmissions decreases in Nevada’s high-risk counties.”
Rose encouraged NSHE students and employees to get vaccinated.
That is not good enough, according to the NFA.
“Over 600 universities and colleges nationally are implementing mandatory vaccinations for students, faculty and staff,” Ervin said. “At present, NSHE has said vaccines would be mandatory only after FDA full approval. Other institutions don’t agree. For example, the University of California and California State University systems have issued vaccination mandates and a federal court upheld a mandatory vaccination requirement at the University of Indiana.”
Short of mandatory vaccines, NFA is calling for ongoing testing of those who are not vaccinated.
“The State of Nevada has now issued a requirement for state employees, including NSHE faculty and staff, who do not provide proof of vaccination to be tested at least weekly,” Ervin added. “The NFA supports frequent mandatory testing for non-vaccinated faculty, staff, and also students. Testing may serve as an incentive for getting vaccinated, and it puts in place the infrastructure for tracking vaccinations pending FDA full approval.”
Ervin noted NSHE has the power to enact tighter restrictions.
NSHE’s public relations representative did not respond to a request for comment, but after this story was published, NSHE issued the following statement:
“The legal authority to mandate a vaccine for Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) students falls within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Health, per Nevada law. The Board of Regents have the authority to encourage and promote the COVID-19 vaccine, however, a vaccine mandate would have to come from the State Board of Health.”
Regent Jason Geddes on Twitter said he supports mandatory vaccinations.
UPDATE Aug. 3, 2021: This story has been updated to include NSHE’s statement issued days after our request for comment.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.