FGCU President Mike Martin on vaccinating students, staff
Florida Gulf Coast University’s graduation is one week away, but school leaders are already looking ahead to next year, with one big focus being the COVID-19 vaccine.
President Mike Martin says he would mandate vaccines for students and staff if he could, but ultimately it’s up to the Florida Board of Governors, which makes these decisions for the state’s public universities. But that’s not stopping Martin from petitioning anyone who will listen to require this.
In the meantime, they are looking at lowering the amount of people needed on campus (more working from home) and making more classes available online to mitigate the spread a little. Martin has been very vocal about keeping students at FGCU safe with mask mandates and accessibility to COVID-19 tests. FGCU has also been able to vaccinate around 2,000 people on campus so far, and Martin hopes to ramp that up, because he knows there can’t be a mandate without accessibility.
He says FGCU is in a unique spot because Lee County has such a large senior population, and the majority of students work in the community. But Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order last week banning businesses — and facilities like universities — from requiring proof of vaccination, which is why Martin says this decision is going to be tricky.
“I’m going to continue to make the case that I believe is in the best interest of the students, the staff, the faculty and the community that we are in, and if that is pushing as hard as I can on the vaccine — which I will — then that’s what I’m going to do,” Martin said.
Since the start of the pandemic, Martin has been meeting with the university’s board of trustees and chancellor regularly, and they even get the state’s surgeon general Dr. Scott Rivkees to chime in.
“We had Dr. Scott Rivkees, the state’s surgeon general, with us, and he said ‘First of all, you can’t require it if we’re not absolutely certain that everyone can get it,'” Martin said. “So the first thing is we’ve got to make sure there’s sufficient vaccine, test it at a level that everyone that should get it, can get it. That’s the first question. Then the next question is: Within the legal parameters, ethical parameters and political, how far can we go?”
The state board of governors is expected to discuss whether or not vaccination will be required on campus at its meeting in June.