USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman Comments on Consulting with USM Presidents on Mandatory Vaccination

Baltimore, Md. (April 16, 2021) Thank you, Madame Chair. During my chancellor’s report earlier in the meeting, I touched on our efforts to vaccinate students on campus this spring, and indicated I’d have more to say. I doubt it’s surprising that the “more” I want to say concerns mandatory vaccination of students, faculty, and staff. I’d venture it’s a discussion that virtually every college and university around the country is having right now—at least those that haven’t already mandated vaccination.

I also doubt there are many of you who’d be surprised to learn what my feelings are on the subject. I’ve already said that widespread vaccination is the way to resume some semblance of normal operations this fall. And that’s because in the absence of widespread vaccination, we can’t say we’re doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our students, our employees, our campus communities, and our neighboring communities.

And from January of last year—when the University System first began preparing for the impending crisis—the safety of our people and our communities has been our No. 1 priority. It still is. Of course it is.

At the same time, I understand that some people are reluctant to be vaccinated—for medical reasons, religious reasons. I understand that, for some, the pause in distribution of the Johnson + Johnson vaccine has exacerbated that reluctance.

Without question, we’re all keenly interested to know the findings of the FDA and the CDC. At the University System, we make our decisions based on science—on data—and we want as much data as possible to help guide us. Of course, the fact that nearly a quarter of the total U.S. population has been fully and safely vaccinated presents quite a lot of good data to go on.

I do believe that mandating a COVID vaccine is a reasonable and necessary means of preventing spread of the disease and protecting community safety. I believe the unique nature of our campuses requires it. Our campuses have a heavy presence of congregate housing, where physical distancing is enormously difficult. We have heightened risk of spread due to the multiple interactions students and others have each day, throughout the day—in their classes, in extracurricular activities, at social events. And we have limitations in how well we can prevent unsafe gatherings.

So, yes, I believe that vaccination is necessary, and that vaccination is especially necessary on college campuses. And I also believe that I need the counsel of our University System presidents before moving forward.

And so, Madame Chair, I’m requesting that the board confer to me the authority to decide—after consultation with the presidents—whether we will require USM students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated against COVID before returning to campus for the fall semester. 

When that decision is made, I will return to this board to formally apprise you of our decision, engage in further discussion, and answer questions. And I know there will be many. There should be.

Madam Chair, I’ll end there so that the board might consider my request.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719