The University of Michigan is putting in place strict vaccination compliance measures for faculty and staff at all three of its campuses after five weeks of higher positive case numbers seen in these populations compared to the student population.
Faculty have until the end of the academic semester to comply with the mandate before being placed on a 30-day unpaid leave, according to a new Monday announcement from the University. If they are still non-compliant by the end of their leave, “they will be subject to the applicable dismissal process.”
Meanwhile, beginning Nov. 8, any staff member without an exemption that has not begun their vaccination process will not be allowed to work or receive pay for a 30-day period, according to the announcement. Any staff member that is still unvaccinated and has not been granted an exception by Dec. 8 will be terminated from their employment contract.
Staff with a vaccine exemption who do not complete weekly COVID-19 testing will also not be allowed to work or be paid until testing is complete. If they still do not comply, staff members “will be subject to progressive discipline leading to termination.”
Weekly testing is not required for University employees working entirely remotely, though they are also required to be vaccinated or to obtain a vaccine exemption.
In response to questions from The Michigan Daily about the difference between faculty and staff requirement timelines, how tenure would impact these requirements and why the decision was made now, the University’s Office of Public Affairs directed The Daily to the initial announcement, which leaves these questions unanswered.
University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily that the University has taken steps to bring employees into compliance with the vaccine mandate, including sending out reminders to faculty and staff to get vaccinated or to request an exemption. Even before Monday’s new sanctions, Broekhuizen wrote disciplinary actions have been implemented for those who remained unvaccinated after Aug. 30 without an exemption.
“Staff were subject to a 2-day disciplinary layoff without pay, and had professional development and travel funds restricted,” Broekhuizen wrote. “For faculty, funds for professional development and discretionary funds were restricted, and they risked having sabbaticals delayed and losing eligibility for honorific recognitions from the university. Both faculty and staff who were out of compliance after Aug. 30 became ineligible for next year’s merit raise program.”
Currently, 97% of students, 97% of faculty and 88% of staff are fully vaccinated. According to the announcement, the University believes only a few hundred employees are not in compliance with the vaccination requirement, most of them temporary staff.
“The university’s vaccination policy is a public health measure implemented to protect students, faculty and staff from COVID-19 infection,” the announcement reads.
Prior to the fall semester, the University announced a vaccine mandate for almost all members of the campus community. Exemptions can be granted for religious or medical reasons, with the stipulation that those individuals obtain a weekly COVID-19 test. As of Tuesday, the University approved 747 student vaccine exemptions and 1,652 employee vaccine exemptions. Starting Nov. 1, Michigan Medicine employees not in compliance with the vaccine mandate will be subject to the “standard discipline study,” which includes a five-step process involving verbal warning and discharge, according to the announcement.
Some employees, such as Michigan Medicine nurses, are contracted under previously negotiated collective bargaining agreements with the University and are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. These groups are required to continue wearing face masks and completing the daily symptom tracker through ResponsiBLUE, the announcement said.
Newly hired employees who are bound by the collective bargaining agreement after the vaccine policy was put in place will also be subject to the mandate as part of pre-employment screening.
According to The University Record, University Human Resources, in collaboration with individual schools, colleges and units, will contact individuals not in compliance this week to encourage vaccination.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect more recent and accurate data regarding the number of University students and employees approved for vaccine exemptions.
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