4 private Louisiana universities are approved to require COVID-19 vaccinations

Debate continues over authority of public universities to mandates shots

By: - July 27, 2021 7:02 pm
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LSU students line up for the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination event at Tiger Stadium (JC Canicosa / Louisiana Illuminator)

Dillard University, Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane University and Xavier University are the only Louisiana schools that have requested and received approval from the Office of Public Health to require the COVID-19 vaccine for people on campus ahead of the fall semester.

The University of Holy Cross in New Orleans will also require their students, faculty and staff to return in the fall with proof of vaccination, according to a WWL report, but Kevin Litten, a spokesperson for the department, said Dillard, Loyola, Tulane and Xavier were the only schools with OPH approval that he knew of.

The Louisiana Department of Health decides which immunizations public schools need to require before every school year — but Litten said state law allows any school, college or university to require immunizations beyond their regular list as long as they get approval from OPH.

One faculty member said in-person classes will become “superspreader events” if the vaccine isn’t mandated.
However, at the June 18 meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors,  Winston DeCuir, LSU’s general counsel, said it would be a “major risk” for LSU to go beyond the health department’s list of required immunizations and mandate the COVID-19 vaccine because the FDA has only authorized it for emergency use.

Decuir was responding to a resolution approved by 90% of the LSU Faculty Council’s 600 members asking the Board to mandate the vaccine. 

“We’ve looked at the constitutional issues as to whether we could mandate it, even though it’s not included in the state law,” Decuir told the board then. . “It would be very difficult right now.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has also said that it would be illegal for LSU to mandate the vaccine, but the attorney general’s opinion does not have the force of law.

Instead of mandating the vaccine, at June’s meeting, the LSU board passed a resolution requesting the department to include, upon full approval by the FDA, “the approved vaccinations for COVID-19 in its schedule of immunizations required for attendance at Louisiana public colleges and universities.”

However, that resolution wasn’t sent to the department until Tuesday afternoon, 39 days after the board passed it. Ernie Ballard, a spokesperson for LSU, suggested that the resolution being sent over earlier wouldn’t have made any difference because “nothing has changed” regarding   the vaccine’s emergency use authorization status.

Bob Mann
Robert Mann holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU.

Robert Mann, an LSU professor and journalism chair of the Manship School of Mass Communication and a frequent critic of the university on social media, said Tuesday he “always had very low expectations for LSU’s conduct around the proposed mandate, but this shocks even me.”

The fact that LSU only sent out their resolution Tuesday afternoon “after reporters and others began inquiring about it tells us everything we need to know about how lackadaisical LSU is about the wellbeing of its students, staff, and faculty,” he said.

“I find it beyond disappointing that LSU still refuses to ask LDH for the same vaccine mandate approval it gave to Tulane, Dillard, Xavier, and Loyola,” Mann said. “From what I understand, LSU could ask and receive such approval in a day’s time, but still refuses to make the request. That’s outrageous and is further evidence of the university’s bad faith.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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