Young Americans for Liberty, a conservative-libertarian student organization with hundreds of members in Maine, and 45 Republican lawmakers successfully convinced the University of Maine System to abandon its controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate last week.
Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy said the UMaine system will no longer enforce the mandate starting with the beginning of the May 2023 term, a decision that comes weeks after Maine’s community college system dropped a similar mandate.
In February, more than forty GOP lawmakers sent a letter to UMaine’s leadership demanding it drop the requirement. However, they were told that the requirement could not be dropped for bureaucratic reasons.
In response, YAL student activists launched a pressure campaign that resulted in more than 250 emails and 150 phone calls urging the UMaine chancellor to abandon the mandate.
GOP lawmakers also used the little bit of leverage they had over ongoing budget negotiations to place additional pressure on UMaine officials. Republicans on the Education Committee told university officials they would not vote for additional money for the system so long as the mandate was in place.
Previously, the UMaine system had one of the most onerous vaccine requirements in the state.
Even students who took all of their classes remotely were required to get the shot. And all students and staff had to share their private medical data with the school system through PointNClick, the university’s “secure” online portal. The university hasn’t said what will happen now with the database of vaccination information it has.
Malloy did not mention the pressure he received to drop the mandate, but he instead attributed the decision to a decrease in the severity of COVID-19 variants and widespread vaccination in Maine.
“These factors helped inform the University of Maine System’s decision to lift the COVID-19 vaccination requirement effective with the May term and going forward,” Malloy said.
Correction: This article originally misstated the number of GOP lawmakers who signed the February letter to the UMaine system.