UVM begins enforcing vaccine mandates among staff as student deadline arrives

  • The University of Vermont campus in Burlington on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (VtDigger - Glenn Russell) VtDigger — Glenn Russell

Published: 1/13/2022 10:20:36 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 10:19:45 PM

The University of Vermont began enforcing its vaccine mandate for faculty and staff this week, and the requirement that its 13,000 students be fully vaccinated went into effect Wednesday.

UVM spokesperson Enrique Corredera said 98% of faculty and staff and “nearly 100%” of students are in compliance with the University’s vaccine mandates.

All employees must have received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of Pfizer or Moderna by Jan. 4 to be considered fully vaccinated, according to the university’s policies. Those seeking exemptions were required to get approval by the school last week and will be subjected to requirements such as masks and testing.

Unlike staff, students are required to receive a booster shot by Feb. 1.

Eleanor Miller, president of United Academics — UVM’s faculty union — said she does not expect any faculty members to be terminated for noncompliance, saying there are “almost no faculty who are noncompliant.”

Miller said her group’s main focus going forward is “the process by which discipline would be merited and imposed.”

The union wants the school to use the disciplinary process already outlined in its contract for issues related to vaccine compliance among faculty, whereas the school has proposed a vaccine compliance policy that would be uniform across all employees, Miller said.

United Academics leaders planned to meet Thursday with UVM officials to discuss the disciplinary process, and Miller described the talks as “cordial.”

UVM Staff United, a union representing clerical, specialized, technical and professional staff, did not endorse the vaccine mandate.

Rachel Wallace-Brodeur, a member of the UVM Staff United bargaining team, said the union has already successfully negotiated one grievance with the college. It involved a union member whose physician — a naturopath — had provided a vaccine exemption, which was initially denied by the school. UVM eventually accepted the exemption.

Any physician licensed to give vaccines may provide exemptions, according to UVM’s policy.

Like United Academics, Wallace-Brodeur said, UVM Staff United is negotiating for a more robust grievance process after an employee is found to be noncompliant with the vaccine mandate.

Among the staff still facing possible repercussions is Todd DeLuca, a bioinformatics research specialist at the Larner College of Medicine. DeLuca told VtDigger he received an email on Tuesday notifying him he had been placed on paid administrative leave for vaccine noncompliance and could be fired in 10 days.

DeLuca said he is strongly against the mandate.

“I think it’s wrong to make people choose between their job and getting a vaccine they don’t want to get,” he said.

Although he has not fully decided whether he ultimately will comply, DeLuca did not sound hopeful.

“I expect that I will be terminated,” he said.

Students also face vaccine mandates. Student Government Association President Sam Pasqualoni told VTDigger in an email that he had not heard from any students protesting the mandate.

He said he and Vice President Olivija Stephens were “grateful for the mandate as a step to increase student safety and wellness.”

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