College to require COVID-19 vaccines for faculty, staff, but with broad exceptions

Saud Afzal Shafi

The College will require faculty and staff to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, President Maud S. Mandel announced in a June 1 email to faculty and staff. But College employees can request exemptions on medical or religious grounds or due to “strongly-held beliefs on the subject,” according to Mandel’s email.

The stipulation about strongly held beliefs avoids privileging specific faiths, according to Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische. “We’re asking any staff or faculty member who requests an exemption to explain how their beliefs ‘prevent’ them from getting vaccinated,” he wrote via email to the Record.

“That way we’ll know who they are and can ask them to take scientifically-proven precautions like masking, asymptomatic testing, and distancing to protect the community,” Reische continued. “Those measures worked in limiting community transmission over the last year, which gives us good reason to think we can accommodate people’s beliefs without unduly increasing community risk.”

The College will generally grant exemptions to anyone who completes the request process, according to Reische. “It’s not the [College’s] place to question the sincerity of someone’s beliefs,” he said.

The College considered input from faculty and staff as well as scientific data to reach this decision, Mandel said. “We decided a requirement would help faculty and staff as a whole feel meaningfully safer in campus workplaces,” she wrote.

In a follow-up email on June 4, Vice President for Finance and Administration Fred Puddester explained that employees can either upload proof of vaccination to the CoVerified app or request an exemption using a designated form.

Faculty and staff are required to complete one of these two processes by the end of August at latest, by which time all employees are expected to return to in-person work.  

Employees who are confirmed to be fully vaccinated will no longer have to wear masks or get tested regularly. Unvaccinated faculty and staff who have received exemptions will be required to continue wearing masks and participate in the College’s testing program, according to Mandel’s email.