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Penn State To Require COVID-19 Vaccines For Faculty & Staff

Penn State will officially require faculty and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the university announced late Tuesday night. Students are still not required to be fully vaccinated unless they work for the university.

The move comes as Penn State attempts to comply with President Joe Biden’s September 9 executive order that requires vaccinations for all federal employees, contractors, and more. Penn State is requiring vaccinations for all employees, regardless of whether or not they work on federal contracts.

University Park faculty and staff must submit proof of vaccination by December 8. Penn State said it could implement sanctions against employees who don’t follow policies that comply with federal requirements, including the vaccine mandate.

For now, Penn State’s mandate applies to only the University Park campus. The requirement covers full-time and part-time faculty, staff, and technical service workers, even if they are working remotely, plus students support on payroll and graduate assistantships.

“For all practical intents and purposes, it has become evident that we must extend the mandate to all employees at University Park,” President Eric Barron said in a release. “The great majority of Penn State employees report being vaccinated, which will accelerate compliance.”

Penn State employees could circumvent the requirement through valid medical or religious exemptions. Details on an exemption request process are “forthcoming,” the university said.

Penn State joins more than 1,000 college campuses that already require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees in one way or another, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Ten Big Ten schools, including Ohio State, Michigan, and Rutgers, already have mandates in place, although some let students and employees bypass vaccinations if they get tested regularly.

According to Penn State’s COVID-19 Dashboard, 87.8% of University Park students and 81.1% of employees have submitted proof of vaccination. Those who haven’t verified their full vaccination are required to get tested for COVID-19 weekly. Penn State has already suspended more than 100 students who’ve not complied with mandatory testing.

For months, Penn State said shied away from full-on vaccine mandates. Instead, administrators focused on incentivizing vaccinations by hosting free vaccine clinics on campus and launching weekly raffles for vaccinated students and employees.

Earlier this fall, thousands of Penn State students, faculty, and staff signed an open letter to the university urging it to take stronger action against COVID-19 and require vaccines. The State College Borough Council also voiced support for a vaccine mandate at Penn State.

Faculty groups, namely the Coalition for a Just University at Penn State, have routinely protested Penn State’s COVID-19 policies. The group has held protests to teach online and outside to take a stand against the university’s safety regulations.

Early Wednesday morning, the CJU tweeted a brief statement saying Penn State’s mandate for University Park employees won’t do enough to promote safety throughout the university community.

Back in May, Penn State’s Faculty Senate voted to overwhelmingly support vaccine requirements for students and employees returning to campus this fall. The non-binding vote showed only support, though, and did not result in new Penn State policies.

The University Park Undergraduate Association, Penn State’s student government, passed a similar resolution in the spring supporting vaccine requirements.

For the most up-to-date information on Penn State’s COVID-19 policies, visit its dedicated website.

This is a breaking news story. We’ll update our post with more information as it becomes available.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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