As the deadline for vaccination for Auburn University employees sits just more than a month away, protesters took to Toomer’s Corner in opposition for the second time.
The protest, held Thursday from 4 - 5:30 p.m., drew a crowd of roughly 30 students and a few other community members. They held signs saying “We support Auburn staff” and calling for employees to be able to choose whether they would like to get the vaccine.
“We're not here to protest against the vaccine,” said Ava Marano, freshman in law and justice. “We're here to protest against vaccine mandates, forced vaccine mandates, and to support Auburn staff who are essentially going to be hurt by this in the end.”
Several of the protesters said that for the protests — which they plan to continue holding — to be successful, they will need to get the attention of higher-ups: the Board of Trustees, the governor, the federal government.
“Right now, a lot of this is out of the University's hands,” said Sam Hass, freshman in criminal justice, who organized the event with Marano. “This is about getting the attention of people on the Board. But also above that.”
Auburn University announced on Oct. 22 that it would require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8. Employees must be fully vaccinated or face termination, according to the University.
The mandate enforced by the University is in line with an executive order issued by President Joe Biden requiring federal contractors — which Auburn University is — to provide "adequate COVID-19 safeguards for their workforce,” which includes requiring employees to take the vaccine.
For the protesters to see the change they are hoping for, it likely won’t come from the University. Some were not very hopeful that that would happen.
“Do I find that happening? Probably not,” said Nathan Duncan, junior in law and justice. “It comes from a higher place.”
Regardless, he thought it was important to show up to Toomer’s Corner and express how he felt.
“I think it's very important to just announce your belief,” Duncan said. “Even if that doesn't create a change, it creates conversation. Conversation’s the most important part — civil discourse, not screaming at each other and calling each other names.”
The clock is ticking for employees to get vaccinated or face termination. In the University’s announcement of the vaccine mandate, it listed deadlines for receiving doses in order for full vaccination by the Dec. 8 deadline. First-dose deadlines for both the Pfizer and Moderna shots have already passed, but employees can get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Nov. 24 and comply with the mandate.
Hass and Marano said that once the deadline rolls around, they’ll still keep protesting against the vaccine mandate.
“I mean, just because there's a deadline doesn't mean that we can't keep defending what's right,” Marano said. “We have to keep standing up for the staff. We have to keep saying it, standing up for student workers. And you know, God forbid they come for students next, but that's a whole different fight. So we have to start now.”
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Evan Mealins, senior in philosophy and economics, is the editor-in-chief of The Auburn Plainsman.