OU SGA held a Friday signing ceremony for a resolution calling for university COVID-19 policy revisions, including a mask requirement and mandatory testing for unvaccinated people.
The resolution also includes a revision for hazard pay and revised attendance policies, which mirror faculty demands for the university to reconsider its COVID-19 policy. Additionally, the authors call for vaccine status confirmation for all community members.
OU’s current COVID-19 policy has remained unchanged due to the university’s interpretation of Oklahoma Senate Bill 658 and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Executive Order 2021-16. Administrators’ response has received significant pushback from the OU community, including English Department Chair Roxanne Mountford and OU Law Professor Joseph Thai.
Undergraduate Student Congress Chair and international security studies junior Crispin South and University Policy Committee Chair and acting junior Graeson Lynskey’s resolution will not directly change OU policies but functions as an official recommendation to university administration, according to a press release Friday. The resolution passed the Undergraduate Student Congress with a roll-call vote of 18-5-0 and the Graduate Student Senate with a roll-call vote of 52-7-3.
South said the best-case scenario is that the OU administration sees the proposition as “fairly common-sense” and adopts everything within. Although this may not be the case, he hopes the university will seriously consider the revisions.
“Especially with us about to go into winter, we definitely don’t want to see another surge of COVID on campus,” South said. “That’s just something that we’re trying to avoid and that's something that I think these policies can at least help us (with).”
Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s chief COVID officer, said Wednesday he believes Oklahoma is past the delta variant surge. South said this is an excellent thing, but COVID is “still not over” and the proposed policies are “best practices” from observing other universities, like Texas Christian University’s indoor mask mandate and Cornell’s requirement of vaccines.
“We want to make sure that we’re safe from any other potential variants that are out there that could cause harm to people on campus,” South said. “We just want to make sure everybody on campus is adequately protected from exposure from getting the virus really at all.”
If the university does not adopt the resolution, Lynskey hopes the administration knows students are paying attention, aren’t “satisfied with the environment” on campus and are ready for change.
“It’s really, really challenging to be students trying to speak truth to power, talking to administration,” Lynskey said. “We had the walkout and we’ve had protests and we’ve got this resolution and it’s a hard position to put yourself in, and I’m really, really thankful to have Crispin and countless other students who have demonstrated who have shown support to us.”
Lynskey said he’s open to discussing the resolution further with OU leaders.
“I’d love to sit down with the President (Joseph Harroz), with Dr. Bratzler, with different decision makers on campus and try and find a solution that that works for all of us, that keeps us in person, keeps the quality of education that students are hoping for at the university, while also keeping everybody safe and not making anybody feel like they have to choose between their health and their schooling,” Lynskey said.
The resolution was signed by South as well as SGA President Tavana Farzaneh and Graduate Student Senate Chair Claire Burch. With Farzaneh’s signature, the resolution will be moved to Harroz for further consideration.