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Penn State Extends Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate To Six More Campuses

Faculty and staff at seven Penn State campuses are now required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the university.

Penn State originally announced a vaccine mandate for University Park employees only last week. Now, faculty and staff at Penn State’s Altoona, Behrend, Brandywine, DuBois, Fayette, and Harrisburg campuses are required to follow the order, too.

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 at the seven campuses, all of which work on federal contracts. The mandate covers all employees, including student employees and graduate assistants.

“While the mandate only applies to six Commonwealth Campuses at this time, we continue to strongly encourage our faculty and staff — and students — at every campus to get vaccinated to protect themselves and our campus communities,” said Kelly Austin, interim senior vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor.

Faculty and staff must submit proof of vaccination to the university by December 8. To be fully compliant, they’ll need one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines on the books.

Although the mandate is universal on paper, Penn State could hypothetically lift requirements for unvaccinated employees if it can “affirmatively determine” that none of its unvaccinated employees would come into contact with vaccinated contractors. Additionally, 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, 81% of employees across the seven campuses 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. The university said sanctions, including termination, could be levied toward employees who don’t comply with vaccine requirements.

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.

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.

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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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