Ducey does not intend to fight the university vaccine rule

PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey has no immediate plans for how – or even if – he will try to sanction the three state universities that require professors and staff to be vaccinated despite his orders to the contrary.

And he may lack the real power or leverage to do anything about it.

“We are reviewing their decisions,” Governor CJ Karamargin’s press secretary said.

All of this comes as University of Arizona President Robert Robbins stressed on Monday that his school was not about to hand over its hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants and other funds to stand. comply with Ducey’s directive.

Robbins, at a press conference, clearly sought not to fight the governor.

He said Ducey understands the importance of vaccination. And this, Robbins said, is demonstrated by the fact that the governor himself has been vaccinated and his health department has set up point-of-delivery sites to facilitate the process.

But the AU president said he had to take into account the fiscal realities of what would happen if the school ignored the Biden administration’s directive that any entity must demand that staff be vaccinated against COVID if they are. expects to continue receiving federal dollars.

“It boiled down to the hard, hard facts: We have hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in federally funded research programs, educational programs and student employment programs,” Robbins said.

“To say that we are not going to comply with this presidential order just seemed hopeless,” he continued. “And so everyone figured out that we had to do this.”

Karamargin said Ducey, while believing the COVID vaccine to be effective and safe, remains on warrants.

“Getting the vaccine should be a matter of personal choice,” he said.

But the reality is that it would appear that the governor has limited power to impose his will on universities.

Only the Arizona Board of Regents can fire university presidents. But, to date, the board has not objected but instead issued a statement explaining the decisions.

Specifically, it looks like Biden and the federal authorities have the biggest hammer.

Figures from legislative budget staff members show the three universities raised $ 998.7 million last year in federal funds – the same funds the Biden administration threatened to withhold from universities that did not ‘vaccination requirements. In contrast, the state provides only $ 719.1 million in aid.

This includes $ 324.7 million at Arizona State University, $ 109.8 million at Northern Arizona University and $ 284.6 million for the University of Arizona, of which $ 207.7 million is for the main campus and the remainder for the health sciences center.

And Ducey’s leverage is actually decreasing.

In the 2014 school year, the last budget passed under Governor Jan Brewer, state aid per student was $ 5,194. That figure had fallen to $ 3,767 by the end of the school year.

“It was pretty straightforward for us,” Robbins said. “We want to keep intact the support for our research infrastructure and our teaching job opportunities for our students. “

But Robbins made no apologies for making the decision on a financial basis to force the 1,600 employees, including students working for the school, to roll up their sleeves.

“I think it’s the right thing for everyone to get vaccinated,” he said.

Still, Robbins conceded that there are those who wonder why he waited until there were dollars at stake rather than simply pursuing a public health-based vaccine mandate.

“It’s fair to say that we should have made (vaccines) mandatory a long time ago, like the University of California system,” he said. He implemented a policy last summer that covers not only staff and faculty, but students as well.

“We don’t live in California,” Robbins continued. “We live in Arizona. And we tried to follow the law and stay with it. “

Regardless, Robbins, who is a cardiothoracic surgeon, said the university had “done quite well” in controlling the spread so far without any warrant.

“We have had a good response to people getting vaccinated,” he said.

How much, however, remains to be seen.

When Robbins first made the announcement last Friday, more than half of the staff and students had already uploaded their immunization status to university officials.

“I feel like there’s another percentage who just haven’t taken the time to upload their immunization records,” he said. Robbins said the announcement should prompt them to do so before the December 8 deadline.

Then, he said, will be those who apply for an exemption, either through the university’s disability resource center to apply for a disability or medical exemption, or through the office. human resources for those seeking a religious exemption.

“We’re going to come down and we’ll take them on a case-by-case basis; Robbins said. Yet, he said, there will be those “very, very few” who will be denied an exemption.

It is not clear what is happening to them.

“Then we have to look to the federal government for advice,” he said.

“They put that rule on it,” Robbins said. “But, as I understand it, they haven’t given us firm advice on what happens if there’s this rare person who chooses not to get the vaccine and doesn’t get an exemption.”

At this point, students who are not working for the university seem to be off the hook.

“I don’t think we’re going to go down the route like other institutions like the UC system and others that have made it mandatory for all students,” Robbins said.

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