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Sept. 16, 2021

Dear UAF staff and faculty,

With the continued spread of COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant, we continue to increase our response to the pandemic. Within the context of the UA system policy that vaccination mandates be by exception, we are taking steps at UAF to broaden our approach. Toward that end, I requested a suite of new vaccine requirements over the last week that were approved by President Pitney. These new requirements will apply to specific faculty, staff and student activities and to specific locations for some of our extended facilities, classes that require close or extended contact, and performance activities. The requirements were requested by supervisors and approved by vice chancellors, by me and by the president. The approvals will be conveyed to the supervisors by memorandum, which will then be posted on the policies section of the UAF COVID-19 website.

New vaccine requirements will be considered by request via this form. Requests are evaluated based on the unique or special circumstances of the group of people, activity or location, and whether a less-restrictive method of mitigation could offer a comparable reduction of risk. They must be approved first by the requesting unit’s supervisor and relevant vice chancellor prior to submission to me and, if approved, by the UA system president. 

As follow-up to my message last week, I have consulted with President Pitney and requested that a COVID-19 vaccine requirement be explored as an exception to the system policy for all full-time UAF faculty as a first step in this broader vaccination approach. Because the faculty are unionized and because the full-time faculty are represented across the system by one union, this discussion will include UNAC. There will be more to come on this. Per my communication last week, we will follow this with a look at all staff as a possible next step and then consider in-person students. I look forward to feedback from the Staff Council and the Associated Students of UAF.

Many groups and individuals are sharing their opinions on the merits of requiring the vaccine, including Faculty Senate and Staff Council. ASUAF is currently polling students for their views on a vaccine mandate. I also have received many direct communications from individuals who have strong views on both sides of the issue. 

Motions, polls, emails, opinions, and different perspectives are very important to help me and the university’s leadership team make informed decisions. I encourage you to continue to share your thoughts.

The Operations Support Team continues to explore ways to make testing more available to the UAF community, especially given the sometimes long waits for testing in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The options being pursued aggressively are hosting a state testing site at UAF and contracting directly with one of the testing contractors to have our own site on campus. I hope to have more information in the coming week. 

Lastly, President Pitney and the Office of the General Counsel are reviewing the Biden administration’s recently announced COVID-19 plan. Among other things, it lists some vaccination and testing requirements for employers with more than 100 employees. President Pitney and our legal team are reviewing how this applies to the UA system, including relative to the State of Alaska’s position announced by Gov. Dunleavy last week.

We have a great team in place to help us address changes as they come. The OST continues to ensure that we have the tools to adapt to the changing nature of the pandemic.

Thank you for choosing UAF.

— Dan White, chancellor



UAF is an AA/EO employer and educational institution and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination/.