The façade has started to crumble. Yet the Louisiana State University (LSU) System administration continues to back superstition over science, reason, and logic.
Last week, the school renounced its policy of requiring anybody (although presumably not the visiting team) entering its football stadium for a home game to show either proof of vaccination from or recent negative test of the Wuhan coronavirus. The official story for the move was explained as a declining number of cases and hospitalizations for the affliction.
This fig leaf should generate mirth among thinking people. These rates have fallen from levels that rivaled all-time highs to relatively moderate levels during the pandemic’s course, but almost every parish in the state, East Baton Rouge included, the state still rates as high risk for community spread. And theoretically gathering 100,000-plus people in a small space, even outdoors, still counts as a super-spreader.
Of course, the real drivers behind this decision are a multitude of unrelated factors, such as needing to sell tickets, putting a stop to insulting visiting teams and their fans (no other Southeastern Conference school had sunk to this level), unwieldiness in administering the restriction but, most importantly, producing bad optics, especially in light of the fact that college football has packed stadiums for six weeks without vaccine passports or any outbreaks.
Yet in allowing this to go forward, Pres. William Tate IV has created an even worse public relations disaster – and piling on to this is none other than the guy who appointed Tate’s bosses on the LSU Board of Supervisors, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Also last week, Edwards admitted he wouldn’t go forward with something similar regarding state employees, or at least it seems any state employees outside of higher education, backtracking on what he once called necessary for a “safe” workplace. He cited difficulties in administering this policy, and that it would cost taxpayer dollars (to fund their passport regimes, the state’s higher education systems are using the separate cache of federal taxpayer borrowed dollars they received in addition to their parts of the state’s allotment).
Note the ongoing stupidity in the “safe” workplace assertion that underlies Tate’s diktat. As vaccination does nothing to prevent transmission, the unvaccinated face just as much risk from the vaccinated as themselves. And, with very few exceptions, the unvaccinated choose that status (and if any on campus have a medical reason not to receive vaccination, there are nonpharmaceutical interventions they can take on their own to reduce dramatically the chances of infection). So, no one responsible for their own well-being and risk assumption is any more or less “safe” because of a vaccine or negative test requirement; or, to put it another way, a vaccinated and unvaccinated person are equal threats to transmit the virus.
Worse, even as Edwards’ pronouncement undercuts that “safe” rationale at LSU – if other state employees can take the “risk,” why not folks receiving and delivering higher education – more devastatingly the school’s own action in deactivating the stadium requirement destroys this. After all, forced to comply with the requirement of vaccination or negative test, many students, some staff, and even a faculty member here or there will show up at these games outside of the allegedly protective cocoon LSU has instituted in every other place on campus with throngs unvaccinated and potentially infected.
There’s no rationale justification to claim the requirement is a matter of life or death but then waive it on certain parts of campus, especially in the most difficult environment of all places on campus to practice the only nonpharmaceutical intervention that works well, physical distancing. This exposes the absolute intellectual bankruptcy of the passport idea and mocks LSU as an academic institution, where if in no other place reason and science should rule.
But, at LSU it’s all about politics and optics, not science and reason. Enforcing the passport regime doesn’t make anybody safer, wastes taxpayer dollars, and offends human dignity, but, hey, it gets Tate an audience with the president.
Stop the madness and perversion of the idea of the university. If Tate doesn’t end the system’s vaccine passport/ testing requirement, the Supervisors should make him.