Washington State University has only worsened its embarrassment over its unvaccinated football coach with its Thursday announcement of a nuanced amendment to its previous COVID-19 vaccine mandate. No longer can students claim a personal exemption from the vaccination requirement, but faculty or staff can continue to do so.
Now the entire world can see that WSU President Kirk Schulz has chosen yet another dodge to avoid punishing coach Nick Rolovich for an indefensible defiance of the vaccine mandate.
Rolovich’s refusal to take any of the three widely available vaccines, even as players and student assistants can make no such decision, ought to be punished, not tolerated. Yet Schulz and WSU athletic director Pat Chun have let the saga of Rolovich’s vaccine refusal drag on without public consequences. The coach has put on an awkward show of limited health compliance. He teleconferenced in to a California media event. He wore a mask to press-accessible scrimmages. He met with reporters outside, at a distance. He did not get a public reprimand, face suspension or firing, or lose a dollar of his $3.2 million paycheck, the highest salary of any state employee.
Apparently, Schulz finds it easier to limit only students’ ability to claim vaccine exemptions than to extend the rule to faculty and staff.
But that is the wrong call. There ought not be two sets of COVID-19 requirements on WSU’s campuses in Pullman and elsewhere. Schulz should not wait for pressure from students for equal treatment to eliminate all personal exemptions, or for Food and Drug Administration certification of vaccine safety that basic statistics already have made plain. More than 350 million doses have been given in America alone.
Time is of the essence in a pandemic, and WSU classes start Aug. 23.
Rolovich should be subject to the same public health guidelines as the players he’s in charge of. So should every worker on the campus. If it’s good policy for the 60,000 state workers under Gov. Jay Inslee’s oversight, it’s good policy for the 7,000-plus WSU employees, starting with the highest-paid of them all.
Schulz should hear this himself. Email him at PresidentsOffice@wsu.edu.