In a faculty meeting on Thursday, Washington State president Kirk Schulz addressed the vaccination status (or lack thereof) of the university's highest-paid and most-prominent employee -- head football coach Nick Rolovich.
Rolovich made waves when he announced in July he would not attend Pac-12 media day because he was not vaccinated. Washington governor Jay Inslee then announced on Aug. 18 a vaccine mandate for all state K-12 and higher education employees, to take effect on Oct. 18.
Rolovich has responded simply by saying he planned to "follow the mandate" without elaborating further. Obviously, the heavily implied implication was that Rolovich would apply for a religious or medical exemption, but his stoic stance, citing privacy reasons, has invited only more questions -- among the public, the media, and as we heard Thursday, among his colleagues.
"The major elephant in the room, the thing that's gotten the Seattle Times all excited, has been one individual in a prominent position that up until this date has not been vaccinated and has not talked to the media much about where that is. I just remind everybody -- regardless of what the person makes, what position they have, we have to treat people the same," Schulz said, in audio posted by KQQQ in Pullman.
We only hear one side of the conversation, and only a minute and a half of it at that, but it's not hard to decipher the questions Washington State's president fielded from his faculty judging by his answers.
"There's a lot of 'You ought to terminate somebody.' Well, am I willing to terminate a faculty member for the same decision? Am I willing to terminate a staff member for the same decision? So aside from the emotions of that we've had to work really hard to not say a lot and I understand the angst that's out there over Coach Rolovich's decision, but at the same time I try to remind everybody the community has done a fantastic job of vaccination.
"Let me make this clear: there's no free pass for anybody. Whether it's a coach, the president, it doesn't matter. Everybody that's a state employee has got to comply, either being vaccinated or filling out and getting an approved exemption. There's no Option B. Nobody's getting a free pass here because of who they are or what job they do."
In the meantime, the football team is 1-2, its one victory thus far coming at the expense of FCS Portland State. The Cougars built a 14-0 lead against USC this past Saturday before losing 45-14. Wazzu begins a 2-game road swing this week with a trip to Utah, followed by a visit to Cal, before three straight home games against Oregon State, Stanford and No. 15 BYU.