Western Extends Current Mask Mandate; Discuss Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Employees

Western Extends Current Mask Mandate; Discuss Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Employees

ROCK SPRINGS — The Western Wyoming Community College (Western) Board of Trustees met on Tuesday evening to discuss the school’s current mask mandate and begin conversation about the school’s plan concerning the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for employers larger than 100 employees.

The meeting resulted in more questions than answers, but the board determined it was the right time to start a discussion as they begin navigating President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

“There’s still so much that we have no clue about,” Western President Dr. Kim Dale said.

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Dr. Dale presented what little information she said she was able to collect, pointing out that the mandate will be regulated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). She said Wyoming is an OSHA state plan and educational institutions fall under that plan.

Dr. Dale also made note of a letter written by Western’s Associate Vice President of Human Resources Joy Adams that raised some questions and concerns. She highlighted Adams’ concern about the significant fine of $14,000 per violation. She also questioned who is responsible for paying for testing and how that is carried out.

Board member George Eckman pointed out that a pattern of forcing federal mandates by threatening financial cutbacks has occurred throughout history, specifically reciting the Nixon and Reagan administrations. He said eventually this could come down to federal funding being cut from the college should they choose not to comply.

“I can see very well that if this goes, that’s what they’ll do.” Eckman said.

While there are plenty of questions to be asked, Dr. Dale said the college should coordinate with other community colleges. She said she will be meeting with other school presidents in the coming weeks.

Mask Mandate Extended

The other purpose of Tuesday night’s meeting was to discuss and vote on the current mask mandate which was put into place late August.

Dr. Dale said the mask mandate seems to be working so far and she recommended the board extend the current mandate, which requires masks when social distancing isn’t possible. She mentioned that the majority of staff are in favor of masks and while students expressed their dislike of masks, that they were in support as long as classes could remain in person.

“We really by and large have been conflict free,” Dr. Dale said.

Board President Regina Clark echoed Dr. Dale’s remarks about creating a culture of safety, support and respect for all and avoiding a culture of policing.

Board members Regina Clark, Dr. Veronica Donaldson, Dr. Greg Erramouspe, Kenneth Lorimer, George Eckman, and Zach Guier voted to extend the current mask mandate. Board member James Jessen was the only vote against. The mask mandate will be reviewed during the board’s October 19 meeting.