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Protest Emerges on UM Campus in Response to Vaccine Mandate

By Stacey Spiehler and Violet Jira

The Daily Mississippian

Photo by Sophia Jaramillo.

Protesters gathered on the University of Mississippi campus Tuesday in demonstration against the vaccine mandate that requires all faculty, staff, support staff and student employees to be vaccinated or exempt by Jan. 3. 

Roughly two-dozen in number, the protesters — consisting of community members, university employees and students — walked the university campus chanting, bearing signs and exchanging words with on-lookers. The protest is one of many across the state and nation against vaccinations as a condition for employment. 

One student, who preferred to be identified only as “Kelly,” was notified of the event via a GroupMe for members of the UM chapter of Turning Point USA. The GroupMe was publicly accessible until late Tuesday afternoon, but the protest was not publicized in any other way. 

Kelly will be graduating in the spring with a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry and says she believes in the science behind the vaccine, but believes in freedom first. 

“They care more about the money and politics than they do about the people who are going here, who are working here, who are just trying to survive,” said Kelly. “They’re caving because of money.” 

By complying with the federal mandate, the eight public universities in the state of Mississippi will be able to maintain 120 federal contracts and $271 million.

Scott Kendricks was also one of the demonstrators. A veteran, educator, former police officer and UM Department of Journalism graduate, Kendricks stood in demonstration against the mandate. 

“The university is mandating that all faculty and staff — that means from the professors to the grass cutters — have to get vaccinated to keep their jobs and I think that’s wrong. They didn’t have a choice. They should have a choice,” he said. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is a condition for employment, however, the university rescinded previous direction, announcing yesterday that those who had not provided proof of vaccination or received medical/religious exemption would be separated from employment come Jan 3. Previously, unvaccinated and nonexempt employees would be placed on unpaid leave after Dec. 8. 

Kendricks, though not a university employee, believes it is unfair for employees to lose their jobs for not taking the vaccine. 

“People who have been on this campus for 25 years — working faithfully — they’re going to be out of a job if they don’t take the vaccine,” he said.

The protests began on the Union plaza before taking the Walk of Champions and University Ave. through the circle and to the Lyceum. Met with an empty Chancellor’s office, the protesters stopped on the east side of the lyceum, chanting and hotly exchanging words with onlookers in opposition to their cause. The protesters then returned to the Union plaza and disbanded. 

It is unclear whether more protests are to be held. 

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