University Senate - August 30, 2021 Meeting Minutes

Call to Order and Announcements

The University Senate was called to order at 3:30 p.m., via Zoom, on Monday, August 30, 2021. Members absent: Jennifer Fox, Spencer Izor, Todd Stuart

  1. Announcements and Remarks by the Chair of University Senate, Provost Jason Osborne and Chair of University Senate Executive Committee, Jennifer Green.
    1. Introduction of new Senators
    2. Introduction of Helaine Alessio and Tamise Ironstrack who will lead this year’s Senate Open Sessions. A link for suggesting potential topics for future working sessions was provided.

Special Reports

  1. Miami University COVID-19 Fall Testing Plan
    1. Phillip Smith shared information regarding the testing program currently in place for the university, including the student surveillance testing program. The goal is trying to keep an accurate measure of COVID-19 on campus to identify trends.
      • The core testing team is a partnership between Miami University and Trihealth and has expertise in infectious diseases, epidemiology, biostatistics, general public health, immunology, virology, and testing. This group collaborates with offices across Miami as well as individuals outside of the University, including contact tracing, quarantine isolation, facilities and operations, residential and student life, Dean of Students, and the President's Executive Council.
      • Outside of the core team, they are in contact with TriHealth and Dr. Black, their infectious disease specialist, and communicate with Ohio State University, Ohio University, Kent State University to compare practices.
      • The team’s work is tracking trends and what groups might be contributing the most to transmission in our community, breakthrough infections, reinfection, and with contact tracing partnership matching our testing data with their data on where exposures were happening. Discussed testing strategy and how sampling and testing numbers are determined.
    • Questions posed by Senators:
Q: What is the rationale for not performing surveillance testing on off campus students? A: The rationale was that we have a limited number of tests every day, and we need to be using tests where they are most impactful.
Q: Is there a reporting mechanism in place to report positive cases and how is it working? How is contact tracing progressing? How can faculty help in reporting? A: He does not have much control over those processes specifically, but added it really is up to the individual to report a positive case themselves if they test positive using at home methods. Anyone who tests positive goes into a state database if they go through a medical center then the state will contact trace.
Q: Can we have more information regarding the home covid-19 test kits and how they fit into the testing system, such as procedure and what testing regularly implies? A: It's not part of the current mechanism because it's voluntary. It was also noted that there is conception of a high false negative rate with asymptomatic individuals; a negative test doesn't conclusively mean that you don't have COVID-19.
Q: If a student is identified through contact tracing and has already been vaccinated, are they also required to quarantine? A: The short answer is no. CDC guidance right now and Butler County General Health District policy indicates that if you are a vaccinated and come into close contact, you do not have to quarantine. If you develop symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider to get tested.

New Business

  1. SR 22-xx – Resolution to Allow Remote Access to University Senate Meetings
    1. Jen Green summarized the motion in the attachment explaining it provides transparency and allows individuals to see proceedings without the necessity of coming in person if they are unable. She added that the caveat is it will be difficult for senators to vote or engage in discussions if remote.
    2. Discussion ensued between senators as to whom specifically will access be open, whether it will be password protected, and about enforcing no creating or disseminating of audio or video recording. There was additional discussion regarding concern over there not being an official recording; we don't really have a way to refute claims based on edited recordings or material.
    3. It was suggested that senators should be able to participate in meetings remotely. We're telling people to use an abundance of caution but that they cannot participate remotely; we're offering courses when students get sick that we should have the same flexibility for ourselves as senators.
    4. SR 22-xx – Resolution to Allow Remote Access to University Senate Meetings was tabled for further discussion. (Yes 40; Abstentions 2; 4 No)

Approval of University Senate Minutes

  1. A motion was received, seconded, and carried to approve the April 26, 2021, minutes of University Senate.

Consent Calendar

  1. The following items were received on the consent calendar:
    1. Undergraduate Research Annual Report_2021
    2. Center for Teaching Excellence Annual Report_2021
    3. Academic Policy Committee Annual Report_2021
    4. Committee on Faculty Research Annual Report_2021
    5. Benefits Committee Annual Report_2021
    6. Governance Committee Annual Report_2021
    7. Student Life Council 4.7.2021
    8. Graduate Council Minutes
    9. LEC_GMP Minutes 4.9.2021
    10. LEC Minutes 4.20.2021
    11. LEC_GMP Minutes 4.30.2021

Old Business

  1. No items of Old Business

Provost Update

  1. Chair of University Senate, Provost Jason Osborne
    1. Miami University Vaccination Proposed Policy
    2. Senate support for university vaccination policy
      • The Provost thanked everyone who shared some input on the previous draft, noting there was significant input from all areas of campus including senators. He noted that there were some comments about lack of adequate shared governance but that in this case, and others, urgency may require the need to consult asynchronously through email or some other format to have issues addressed more quickly.
      • Discussion were held between deans, department chairs, classified and unclassified staff committees, associate student government representatives, and other student groups. Most voiced support for a University vaccine mandate to be put into place.
      • Dates are included within mandate:
        1. October 15 for first shot or application for exemption.
        2. Completed process by November 22
      • Exemptions to be included within mandate:
        1. medical exemption,
        2. religious exemption, and
        3. exemption for sincerely held beliefs for reasons of conscience (philosophical or ethical reason).

    • Questions posed by Senators:
Q: Is the reason for ‘Conscious’ exemption similar to other vaccines students have to get? If students that asked for exemptions understand that by declining they may be required to leave campus, class absences may not be excused – will it be the same for COVID vaccinations? A: The same stipulations utilized for other vaccines will be applied. Other universities with mandates are seeing higher vaccination rates as a result so this isn’t a worst case scenario if people want exemptions. Fake cards may be a wide concern, but there are ways to identify them, at which point it becomes a policy violation. The University has not currently identified how they will address this issue.
Q: Will there be no exemption for persons who have had the virus and now have antibodies? A: Current CDC, Butler County and state policies recommend waiting to get a vaccine but agree that at some point you're going to need to vaccinate to remain protected. 
Q: If a student petitions the university under religious conviction language, what about students who don't have those exemptions already on file for other vaccines? Also, what criteria will be used to evaluate, and were any faculty in philosophy or religion consulted on criteria? A: If students already have opted out of vaccines it transfers to this as well.
Discussion then moved to people that may not be Miami staff but may have a presence – workers, contractors, construction – and how that may be addressed:

Q: How will submissions for exclusion be handled that are based solely on misinformation? A: The University is still working this out, but we aren't able to judge personal views or matters of personal conscience. 
Q: Has any health decision ever been made in Miami's history based on anticipated retaliation of the state legislature? Have experts weighed in on the impact of the exemption – for example is there a certain number of community members that would be exempt that would render this policy ineffective? A: We are a public university and we are subject to the laws of the state of Ohio. We partner with many groups and individuals. The goal is to move from where we are to where we need to be and this is the best way to do that.


The Regular Session of University Senate was adjourned at 4:59 p.m.