Professors, Students Push For Mandates But Georgia’s University System Says No

Pro-mandate protestors at a recent GSU demonstration wanted to send a message to university system officials.

Martha Dalton / WABE

The standoff continues between Georgia college professors and students who want vaccine and mask mandates, and university system officials who won’t require either one.

Professors and students who favor mandates have made their voices heard through petitions, protests, and in some cases ignoring the university system’s ‘mask optional’ policy and requiring them in class. The Faculty Senate at Kennesaw State University recently voted in favor of campus mandates. Some professors have stepped down or been fired for refusing to teach without the requirements in place.

The Board of Regents has backed the position of Gov. Brian Kemp, who said last week he doesn’t support mandates for colleges.

“I personally believe that mandates like that are only going to cause division on campus,” Kemp said. “If people want to wear a mask, wear the mask. I’m good with that … but also know that there are a lot of people that have been vaccinated that don’t want to wear a mask anymore and, to me, we shouldn’t be fighting about these issues.”

At the Board of Regents’ monthly meeting Thursday, Acting University System Chancellor Teresa MacCartney reiterated recent Kemp’s comments and said the system would continue to urge both vaccines and mask-wearing.

“[Gov. Kemp] expects the university system to continue to focus on getting everyone who’s eligible vaccinated and to educate and advocate about why it’s so important,” MacCartney said. “We continue to be in alignment with the governor’s expectations and requirements for state agencies through this pandemic.”

The university system’s reluctance to issue mandates has frustrated and confused many professors and students. Some professors have said they feel like they’re being asked to put their health at risk to do their jobs. At a recent protest, Georgia State University student Ashton Hanson seemed exasperated by fellow students who haven’t received the vaccine.

“If you are a patriot of this country and you want to do anything for this country, get vaccinated,” she said. “Don’t say, ‘I’ll do anything for this country,’ but when someone asks you to take a vaccination, you don’t want to do it.”

Some colleges are offering students incentives to get vaccinated, like weekly prize drawings and book credits. The university system is also giving staff time off to receive the shots.

The CDC recommends teachers and students over the age of two wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.