Good Move from Biden to Include HBCUs in Vaccine Mandate Policy Discussions

Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick will be part of an executive meeting this afternoon to discuss corporate strategies for vaccine mandates. Howard is one of several HBCUs and a growing number of colleges and universities to require faculty, staff, and students to show proof of vaccination, or be subject to stringent testing and distancing requirements upon their return to campus this fall, or possible termination.

The Biden Administration deserves kudos for having the kinds of conversations that can uplift best practices in places and spaces where vaccinations remain a tough subject to broach with people. Howard is a nearly perfect corporate entity to include in this conversation; the school has been a national leader on covid awareness and vaccination advocacy conversations, with Frederick and HBCU medical school leaders in particular lending voice to the urgency of vaccination to protect against infection in health vulnerable populations.

Washington D.C. stands at a 57% full vaccination rate, seven percent higher than the rate for the United States at large and with a significant number of Black folks who live and work in the city who remain on the fence about the safety or usefulness of getting shots in arms. Even though Howard demands protection, the city around the campus has yet to embrace a similar approach to limiting sickness; this is a topic that Black institutions and Black people need to lead in discussing.

It is also important for Howard to represent the business side of vaccination politics and economics. Employee turnover and vacancies, worker morale, medical and personal leave policies surrounding the question of being or not being vaccinated are critical for all companies, and specifically low-resource historically Black institutions.

If the federal government ties funding for student loans, grants, and programmatic development, the implications of these policies will hit HBCUs differently than many other industries or educational sectors. Being at the table to outline cost-benefit ratios for HBCUs is important on a number of cultural and operational levels.

Howard’s president will represent the institution, but the HBCU role in the conversations well. The advisers and staffers who made that kind of representation possible have the right idea on how to keep promises made during the campaign, and how they can turn into action in the years to come.