Higher Ed in the News: 6/7

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash.

This week on Higher Ed in the News: the EEOC weighs in on vaccination requirements, a new bill underlines the Democratic stance on student athletes, and a state university system task force works to address inequality.

You can read previous editions of this series here.

EEOC allows workplaces to require COVID-19 vaccination

With some restrictions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that employers can require employees entering a physical workplace to have a coronavirus vaccination, according to Ryan Golden on Higher Ed Dive. This is likely to have repercussions in institutions of higher education.

Vaccination requirements must comply with applicable Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees. In this case, accommodations may be required if an individual did not get vaccinated due to a disability or religious belief. 

Senate Dems introduce bill to classify college athletes as employees

Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are proposing that college athletes on academic scholarships be defined as employees. This would allow them to benefit from all of the federal protections that come with that designation, including “bargaining over wages, working conditions, revenue sharing agreements and other rights afforded to employees,” as Molly Hensley-Clancy wrote for the Washington Post.

The bill is not likely to pass, but it does reflect shifting sentiments of lawmaker support for student athletes and their conditions on campus. The overwhelming evidence is of exploitation in major college sports, where mostly white coaches and athletic directors make millions while mostly black athletes are paid nothing besides tuition for a school they are barely able to attend. 

“College athletes are workers. They deserve pay, a union, and to own their own name, image, and likeness. We cannot wait for the NCAA to share its billions with the workers who create it,” Sanders said in a statement. “It is long past time we gave these workers the rights they deserve.”

Federal intervention would change the landscape in college sports significantly, and the groundswell is building. 

Illinois higher education leaders band together to address Black student enrollment and inclusion

Black student enrollment at Illinois state universities dropped almost 30% between 2013 and 2018, according to a study from the state’s board of education. To address the issue, the leadership of the state universities formed a 45-person working group focused on making recommendations to solve the problem.

Greta Anderson of Inside Higher Ed wrote about this group’s first report, containing “strategies for improving student pipelines and college preparation during and after high school, building more inclusive and supportive campus environments for Black students, and addressing the growing unaffordability of college and racial inequities in internship and job opportunities,” Anderson wrote. College affordability and inclusive campus cultures are atop the list of reasons being named as the main causes.

The school systems are fundraising to establish a Center for Education Equity at Chicago State University. They are also working with local and state legislators and state higher education boards for support.