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Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for Faculty and Staff Members

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

I hope you are finding time this summer for well-earned rest and rejuvenation. Our planning for the coming academic year continues in earnest. Generally speaking, the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are vastly improved compared with last year, thanks primarily to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the large and growing population of fully vaccinated individuals; the vaccine is the reason we are able to return to an in-person residential learning experience this fall. But as you are well aware, the number of cases of COVID-19 is starting to increase again in some areas of the country and the world, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

The COVID-19 Planning Group has given considerable thought to the question of whether we should require all faculty and staff members (employees) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Our discussions continue to be led by the guiding principles established at the outset of the pandemic, particularly: “We will hold paramount the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff members.” In keeping with that commitment, and after extensive consultation with medical and public health experts, all employees are now required to verify that they are fully vaccinated unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption. See details and exceptions below. You can also find this information on our COVID-19 vaccine information page.

The scientific data is unequivocal: Vaccines are the most effective way to minimize the spread and effects of COVID-19. Requiring them of our students and employees aligns with our core values of equity, inclusion, and serving the common good. It will also enable our campus community to return to a living-learning residential experience with few restrictions — one that feels much closer to normal than the past 16 months have. To date, we know that at least 81% of our faculty and staff members are already fully vaccinated.

Fully Vaccinated Employees

  •  If you are fully vaccinated and you have not yet uploaded your completed CDC vaccination card in mySwarthmore, you must do so by Wednesday, Aug. 4.
  • If you are not yet fully vaccinated but you plan to get the vaccine, you are required to upload your completed CDC vaccination card in mySwarthmore verifying that you are fully vaccinated by Friday, Sept. 17. 
    • We chose this date to give those of you who have not yet been vaccinated sufficient time to do so. 
    • The process of becoming fully vaccinated can take approximately 5–6 weeks from the date of your first shot; please plan accordingly. 
  • If you’re fully vaccinated and you’ve already uploaded your vaccination card, no action is required.

We’ve provided detailed instructions on how to provide proof of your vaccination. If you have questions about this process, please contact Human Resources via email or by calling 610-328-8397.

Opt-Out Programs

We appreciate that some employees who do not qualify for a medical or religious exemption may opt not to get the vaccine. Employees who choose not to get vaccinated and who do not receive a religious or medical exception, or who decline to provide proof of vaccination, may pursue one of the following options:

COVID-19 Personal Leave
Employees who opt not to get a COVID-19 vaccine or decline to provide proof of vaccination may take a 12-month personal leave. Such leaves will be unpaid and without benefits. To be eligible for this leave, you must contact Human Resources by Wednesday, Aug 4; approved leaves will begin effective Monday, Aug. 23. For planning and staffing purposes, employees who are approved to take this COVID-19 Personal Leave cannot ask to have the 12-month period reduced.

Resignation & Vaccine Opt-Out Program (VOP)
Employees who opt not to get a COVID-19 vaccine or who decline to provide proof of vaccination may also choose to resign. The College is offering a one-time vaccine opt-out program (VOP) for employees who choose to do so. Employees who elect the VOP will receive four weeks of base pay. As a result of resignation, employees will also receive payment for any unused, accrued vacation balance (if applicable). We will share additional details within the next week on how to participate in this program, as well as information on the continuation of health insurance, with employees who are not yet fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.

Unemployment Benefits
Employees who choose to take a 12-month unpaid leave or elect the one-time resignation/VOP program may apply for unemployment benefits. Please note that decisions about unemployment benefits are made by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not the College. Unemployment benefits are not guaranteed.

COVID-19 Vaccine Exemptions

The College will allow for medical and religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Medical Exemptions
Employees who wish to apply for a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine must do the following:

Individuals will receive notification of whether their applications are approved no later than Friday, Aug. 27.

Religious Exemptions
Employees who wish to apply for a religious exemption must complete this COVID-19 religious exemption application no later than Wednesday, Aug. 4. Individuals will receive notification of whether their application is approved no later than Friday, Aug. 27.

Individuals who receive a medical or religious exemption may be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing and continue wearing a face mask while inside campus facilities. We will provide more details to those individuals in the near future.

If an employee is denied a medical or religious exemption and chooses not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, they may still elect to take a 12-month unpaid leave or resign, as described above. Human Resources will work with those individuals on that process and determine an appropriate timeline.   

The COVID-19 global health crisis has demanded extraordinary accommodations and sacrifices of all of us. I am beyond grateful for your efforts and your commitment to carrying out the mission of the College while also keeping yourselves, your loved ones, and each other safe.

Sincerely, 

Val Smith
President