The three largest universities in Virginia have dropped their sweeping vaccine requirements after the state’s attorney general issued his legal opinion calling such mandates illegal.
George Mason University, Virginia Tech and the University of Mary Washington all announced reforms to their previously strict vaccination requirements. The colleges now emphasis recommendations to vaccinate without negative consequences for remaining holdouts.
“Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is no longer a condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance, nor will unvaccinated or eligible unboosted students be subject to separate testing requirements,” University of Mary Washington wrote in a memo.
Virginia’s newly elected Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares warned the universities they would not be allowed to mandate vaccines for students in a legal opinion published Jan. 26.
“Virginia’s public institutions of higher education are public corporations,” Miyares wrote in the opinion. “As such, they are afforded separate corporate status but remain under control of the General Assembly and may only exercise such powers as the General Assembly has expressly conferred or necessarily implied.”
The attorney has already taken hard line stances on public policy from education to criminal prosecution, saying that Virginia would be moving forward with “common sense” instead of partisan platforms. Unpopular mask and vaccine mandates at public schools and universities are a focus of both Miyares and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“All George Mason University students are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and to submit COVID-19 vaccination documentation and COVID-19 booster documentation,” the university now says, though the request for documentation is now rendered toothless.
The university followed up the change with a letter to students from the school’s president, Dr. Gregory Washington.
“Given our high vaccination rate, the continued decline of the omicron variant, the Governor’s recent executive orders and directives, and the recent Attorney General’s opinion, we will now strongly encourage vaccination protocols for all Mason students, faculty, and staff, though we no longer require them,” Washington wrote. “We also strongly encourage everyone to upload their vaccination status so we can continue to understand the effect of the virus on campus community.”
Virginia Tech is also following the new legal opinion, stating that the school “will no longer require students to be vaccinated as a condition of enrollment or in-person instruction, effective immediately.”
However, the University of Virginia wrote in an online message, “Attorney general opinions, though they do not have the force of law the way a court ruling does, nonetheless warrant careful consideration.”
The university said that because over 99% of its students are already fully vaccinated and boosted, they do not intend to follow the attorney general’s opinion, but will not disenroll students who have not received a booster.
Within hours of taking office, Miyares announced investigations into two campaign issues that were prominent topics on the campaign trail, the Loudoun County, Virginia, sexual assault controversy and alleged impropriety within the Virginia Parole Board’s release of dangerous criminals.
Fox News Digital reached out to Miyares’ office for comment but has not yet received a response.
Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.