May 6, 2021

Dear UAF faculty and staff,

At UAF we continue to adapt our operations to the changing COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to seek the health and safety of our UAF community at the same time that we deliver a world-class education and cutting-edge research. With the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, it is clear that we still have work to do.
Man wearing a mask standing in front of a sign that says "I got my covid-19 vaccine"
As we plan for campus life and welcoming students, staff and faculty this fall, we are working through the emerging role of vaccination on campus and campus operations. We already require the vaccine for certain UAF operations, such as the Sikuliaq, and we are evaluating the legality and feasibility of broader vaccine requirements. The legal landscape around requiring the COVID-19 vaccine is evolving as more businesses adopt vaccine mandates for employees. Universities are also beginning to announce that vaccination will be required for some or all students, particularly those living in residence halls.

There are, of course, lawsuits against the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements that are establishing case law in this area. As this develops, we will better understand the legal boundaries within which we operate. In the meantime, we remain focused on that “North Star” that has guided us throughout the pandemic: providing safe access to education by going the extra mile to allow students on campus, in residence, and in person when necessary while also providing ample access to online and distance education options.

As more case law and science emerge, we will look for more ways to encourage and incentivize vaccination, and to require it broadly or just for certain activities or situations. Examples of vaccine requirements could include student and guest housing, athletics, camps, and some student and research activities and sites.

While we explore how to incorporate COVID-19 vaccination into our operations, we are also considering how vaccination and the masking policy work together. We expect to learn a great deal more over the next month. We plan to put practices in place in plenty of time for fall so that those still needing vaccinations can get them.

In the coming weeks, I will be evaluating the local COVID-19 conditions in the UAF locations and communicating about our transition to Phase C as it evolves. Please do your part to stay safe, keep our community safe, and for the health and safety of everyone around you, I encourage you to get vaccinated. I did.

Thanks for your resilience and thanks for choosing UAF.

— Dan White, chancellor
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