Earlier this month, my news outlet reported on efforts by the College of Charleston (CofC) to impose Covid-19 vaccination requirements on its incoming students for the 2021-2022 academic year. Specifically, the Lowcountry South Carolina institution of higher learning intended to require its unvaccinated students to subject themselves to monthly coronavirus testing – or risk facing unspecified sanctions.
These policies ran afoul of a proviso contained in the 2021-2022 state budget which forbids government-subsidized colleges and universities from imposing such mandates.
“For the current fiscal year, state-supported institutions of higher learning that directly or indirectly receive funds appropriated or authorized through the general appropriations act shall be restricted from requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination for any student as a condition of enrollment, attendance at on campus instruction, or residence on campus,” the proviso (117.163) noted.
Another proviso, 117.190, added that taxpayer-funded colleges and universities “may not use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students have received the COVID-19 vaccination in order to be present at the institution’s facilities without being required to wear a face mask.”
“This prohibition extends to the announcement or enforcement of any such policy,” the proviso continued.
In light of these directives, S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson wrote a letter to CofC president Andrew Hsu earlier this month informing him that his school’s policies “could be read to imply that an unvaccinated student (who) refuses to participate in a survey and monthly testing protocols may be subject to a reprimand, the harshness of which is unclear.”
“As state law makes clear, no state institution may mandate Covid-19 vaccinations or retaliate against those that choose not to receive a vaccination,” Wilson wrote in his letter (.pdf). “I strongly urge the college to review and revise its proposed Covid-19 policy to ensure that it complies with state law. The college should clarify that while it may encourage vaccinations, there will be no reprimand, punishment or adverse consequence for any student (who) exercises their individual right not to receive a vaccination.”
Hsu and other CofC officials demurred, and the institution amended its regulations within 24 hours to remove the testing requirement. It further affirmed that “students are not required to be vaccinated in order to enroll or attend the College of Charleston or participate in any campus activities.”
DON’T MISS A STORY …
Fast-forward to last Friday (July 23, 2021), when the University of South Carolina sent an email to incoming students and their families from interim president Harris Pastides outlining the school’s “return to campus Covid-19 requirements.”
From that email …
Students residing in UofSC-operated housing, including the Greek Village, must provide proof of one of the following relative to their respective move-in dates:
- a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test conducted no more than 10 days prior to arrival to campus
- proof of prior positive COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days
- a completed COVID-19 vaccination record
All students residing off campus, faculty and staff must provide proof of one of the following by Wednesday, Aug. 18:
- a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test conducted between Aug. 8 to Aug. 18
- proof of a prior positive COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days
- a completed COVID-19 vaccination record
The school’s Covid-19 email further advised parents that unvaccinated students to quarantine following “an exposure to a positive Covid-19 infection, regardless of their symptoms.” Fully vaccinated students are not required to quarantine after an exposure if they are asymptomatic.
The university is also requiring students to wear masks “on shuttles, buses and other forms of university transportation.”
South Carolina’s Covid-19 guidelines were seized upon by state representative Stewart Jones of Laurens, S.C. – a noted advocate for individual liberty in the S.C. General Assembly. Jones (below) wrote a letter to Wilson’s office on Saturday asking the attorney general to “review” the school’s policies. His letter specifically praised Wilson for “clarifying similar policies that were being discussed by the College of Charleston.”
(Click to view)
(Via: Jones for S.C. House)
“Thank you for working to ensure that liberty is defended and the rule of law is upheld in all state funded schools in the great state of South Carolina,” Jones noted in his letter (.jpg) to Wilson.
How will Wilson’s office respond to Jones’ letter? We shall see … but as I noted earlier this month, his response to the College of Charleston’s attempted vaccine mandate should continue to “receive significant airplay across South Carolina in the months to come as numerous state agencies and political subdivisions of the state grapple with the legality of their proposed vaccine policies.”
The stakes are even higher given the recent rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in South Carolina (and across the country) due to the extraordinarily contagious delta variant of the virus.
As I noted yesterday in covering this new strain of Covid-19, I believe vaccinations are in the best interest of both individual and societal health – which is why I got both of my shots (even though I’ve had Covid at least once and probably twice already).
Still, “vaccination is a deeply personal choice, and I oppose any effort by government to try and make it compulsory – as well as any effort to demonize those who choose not to get vaccinated.”
Also, as I have frequently pointed out in covering this virus over the last fifteen months, Covid-19 is simply not a serious threat to the overwhelming majority of citizens under the age of sixty.
Anyway, stay tuned … I look forward to seeing how Wilson chooses to respond to South Carolina’s Covid-19 protocols.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Fayetteville Woodpeckers’ lid pictured above).
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