On Monday 27 September, the Stellenbosch University (SU) Council held its third meeting of 2021. Council took note of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its negative effect on society.
SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers told Council that it is an institutional priority for the University that all its staff and students be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Vaccines are safe, and they save lives. Our message is that getting vaccinated is the responsible thing to do. So, we have been urging everyone to get the vaccine," he said.
The University has been conducting an awareness drive since the rollout of the national vaccination programme in February this year, and also established its own vaccination site at the Lentelus sports grounds in Hammanshand Road in Stellenbosch, which serves SU staff and students as well as the broader public. SU Chief Operating Officer Prof Stan du Plessis reported to Council that 518 staff members, 2 236 students and 1 472 members of the community had received their jabs there since 10 August, while many others also continue to make use of vaccination facilities elsewhere.
Prof De Villiers confirmed that SU is exploring the possibility of mandatory vaccinations, learning from the experience of other institutions and organisations in South Africa and worldwide. To this end, SU's Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) appointed a task team on 27 August to conduct the risk assessment required in terms of a health and safety direction promulgated in June.
Council discussed the matter, and subsequently adopted the following motion: “The SU Council mandates management to work towards the urgent development of a rule on vaccination for students and staff for the 2022 academic year. Staff and students are reassured that due process will be followed in terms of consultation and risk management."
Prof Du Plessis stated: “A vaccine rule will determine the extent to which staff and students can work and study at the University depending on their vaccination status. It will describe the expectation, as well as the criteria for exceptions."
Prior to Monday's meeting, the assumption was that Council would take a decision on the University' vaccination rule at its last meeting of the year, on 2 December. But SU Council Chair Mr George Steyn explained that “because it is a matter of life and death, Council agreed that its Executive Committee (EC(C)) would be entitled to take a decision as soon as possible to avoid any delays".
* The rest of Communication from Council will follow as soon as possible.