Nevada higher ed officials demand reinstatement of student vaccine mandate

The Nevada System of Higher Education issued a non-binding letter of recommendation for a student vaccine mandate after the Board of Health's original mandate was overturned.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and presidents of all colleges within the state also have expressed support for a new mandate, but one regent who voted against the letter says students should 'decide for themselves.'

The mandate remains lifted as students start a mixture of online and in-person classes this week.

Higher education officials in Nevada are pushing back against a recent decision to overturn the state Board of Health’s student vaccine mandate.

The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents voted to approve a letter recommending the reinstatement of a vaccination mandate for college students, following the reversal of a previous Board of Health mandate in December.

The letter was approved with a 9-4 vote at the board’s Jan. 14 meeting, The Nevada Independent reported. But the act is only symbolic, as NSHE has insisted since August 2021 that it does not have the authority to implement a mandate. 

“While the Board of Regents have the authority to encourage and promote the COVID-19 vaccine, the legal authority to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for NSHE students falls within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Health,” the board wrote in an August memo.

The Board of Regents addressed the letter to the government entities it suggests do possess the authority to impose the requirement– the Governor, the State Board of Health, and the Nevada Legislature.

But the spring semester has already begun without such a mandate in place.

[RELATED: NV lawmakers reverse state-wide vaccine requirement for college students]

In the letter, the Board of Regents pitches a vaccine mandate as the best way to avoid “more restrictive mitigation strategies” like canceling extracurriculars, instituting lockdowns, mandatory testing, or returning to remote learning. 

“A student vaccine mandate would drastically reduce these potential outcomes and keep NSHE’s institutions operating at full capacity,” the board states.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued a statement on Dec. 29 saying that the State would continue working towards a vaccine mandate by going through the regulatory process with the Board of Health.

Presidents of every public college and university within the state have also expressed support for a reinstatement of the mandate, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Regent Patrick Boylan, who voted against the letter, told Campus Reform that “no one should be forced.”

“My perspective and strong belief is that students, who are adults, have the lawful right to decide for themselves, using common sense and informed knowledge to be vaccinated or not,” Boylan said.

[RELATED: ‘I now feel trapped, facing down another semester of struggling to learn remotely’: Law school moves classes online]

Despite a 90% student vaccination rate and 96% faculty vaccination rate, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas will still host 40% of its spring classes online, according to a Jan. 12 email obtained by Campus Reform.

“Based on our own faculty experts and public health officials, we don’t anticipate the latest surge (Omicron) of the virus to begin to subside until the latter part of February or even the first part of March,” the email states.

As Campus Reform also reported, the UNLV law school shifted courses entirely online for the first two weeks, with many classes remaining online for the entire semester. 

For now, the vaccine mandate remains lifted as a mixture of in-person and online classes begins this week.

Campus Reform reached out to the Board of Regents, UNLV, and the Governor’s office; this article will be updated accordingly.

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