September 08, 2021: Auburn University should be a leader in the fight against the virus, but it isn’t

As an Auburn alumnus, twice-over, and as a former Alabama college president, I write this public letter to the president of my Alma Mater, having written several private ones, to wonder aloud why there is neither a mask nor a vaccination requirement on the plains. (I also wonder the same about the University of Alabama campus.)

As a constitutional entity, Auburn University may arguably be immune from the silly act of the Alabama Legislature earlier this year, purportedly denying higher education and K-12 the right to mandate masks and vaccinations. At the very least, President Jay Gogue ought to force the Auburn alumna-Governor Kay Ivey to sue him to force the issue. Regardless of the constitutional protection, which Auburn sometimes threatened to assert when I was a college president negotiating with it about this and that, I would like for the state’s courts, if not the federal courts, to tell us whether or not the Legislature may mandate anything so contrary to the public health of the people of Alabama. Are all of the other public health laws in the state then so subject to caprice?

I assert that the ultimate civil right in this state and country is the right to life. No one, no legislative body, has the right to mandate something that endangers that right. Where are all of the “pro-lifers” on this matter? Does a microscopic peck have more right to life and life-protecting measures than do those of us who are fully born and functioning human beings?

None of the arguments against vaccinations and mask-wearing hold water, and all have been rebutted, if not refuted. Vaccinations have been required since before I was born and, absent medical or legitimate religious objections, which heretofore very few persons have asserted, 90% of the people in our state and nation have welcomed them. When polio was rampant in the land, we sought out vaccinations. Visitors to certain sick persons in hospitals and elsewhere have been required to be masked. Medical personnel wear them all the time — to protect themselves and to protect others. And, in the greatest public testing of the efficacy of mask-wearing over the course of the last year, they have been shown to be effective. That test stopped the first pandemic in time for us to start taking the vaccine; why would the results not be the same of the second pandemic, which was caused by hardheadedness and hardheartedness?

Jim Vickrey

See Jim’s past columns.

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fullsizeoutput_7481A product of seven of Montgomery’s public schools, including Robert E. Lee High School, Jim Vickrey grew up questioning the rules of Jim Crow. At Auburn University where he was SGA President, graduating first in his class, his questions led to an epiphany on March 11, 1965, that caused him to abandon his racist heritage. Pursuing a career first in the Methodist ministry, then the law, he ended up in higher education for nearly 50 years. Retired from the law and from working at half a dozen Southern universities, including Auburn, FSU, USF, the University of Montevallo (where he served as president from 1977 to 1988), and Troy University (1991-2014), he now writes from his hometown. A widely published author and scholar, he has authored or co-authored four books since 2015, two published, with one at the publisher, and he is completing the fourth, Awakenings, about his journey from child of Jim Crow to mature son of the South.