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Aug. 24, 2021

Dear UAF students, staff and faculty,

Yesterday was our first day of classes for the fall 2021 semester at UAF — welcome back! Last week, as I helped with move-in day, I was thrilled to see so many students and families on campus enjoying the day, and of course, wearing masks. As a reminder, UAF remains in Phase C of our on-site operations plan, and face coverings are required indoors in all university-owned or -operated facilities except when you are alone in a private office with the door shut or in a private residence. Face coverings are also required in university vehicles and outdoors when it’s not possible to remain more than 6 feet from others. 

The guiding principle behind our approach to COVID-19 this year and last has been to provide, to the best of our ability, access to education. Many of UAF’s students require in-person learning because of limited access to the internet, limited access to a safe or quiet place to take online classes, or limited access to colleagues, study groups or tutoring. For these and many other reasons, we opted to have students in residence halls and in those classes traditionally held in person. Our students requested it and their presence on campus is testament to the fact that they need and want an in-person experience.

For more than a month we have been discussing the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement at UAF for groups of students (such as students in residence halls), or employees. It has been the subject of a number of my COVID-19 communications. I should note that the general UA system-level policy is that vaccine requirements are by exception only and must be requested (by chancellors) and approved (by the president) on a case-by-case basis. 

Last week I announced that we were implementing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for student athletes. I also mentioned that we would evaluate the vaccination levels in residence halls and determine whether or not a requirement was needed. Based on move-in reports, 82% of our students living on campus are vaccinated against COVID-19 already. This is great news; however, based on the continued growth of the delta variant in our community and the lifting of the emergency use declaration for the Pfizer vaccine, I have asked for and been granted permission to join UAA and UAS by implementing a COVID-19 vaccine (or approved waiver) requirement in our single-student residence halls at UAF. There will be plenty of time afforded to students in residence to either submit their vaccination record, get vaccinated or obtain a waiver. We hope that because the overwhelming majority of students are already vaccinated, this step will cause minimal disruption to our students. Details regarding the vaccination requirement timing and waivers will be communicated directly from Residence Life to students in the coming days.

There are currently no blanket vaccination requirements for employees, and that discussion is ongoing at the system level. In the interim, it is possible that specific circumstances will arise where vaccination is required of individual groups of employees. In that instance, those employees would receive direct communication, and exemptions for medical and religious reasons could be requested. 

Please note that the Pfizer vaccine will be available at our pop-up vaccination clinic at the Akasofu Building on Sept. 9. This will be a great opportunity for faculty, staff, students and unaffiliated family and community members.  If you are not fully vaccinated, I encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to complete the UAF COVID-19 vaccination voluntary attestation form. To date, 1,627 employees and students have attested to their vaccination status. We started drawing names for prizes last week and will continue to do so every week throughout the fall semester.  

As we enter the fall 2021 semester here are some important updates:

Physical distancing

  • Students and employees who are not fully vaccinated are responsible for ensuring they maintain 6 feet of separation in classrooms. Physical distancing is consistent with CDC guidance for institutions of higher education and our on-site operations plan. 
  • Now that registration is wrapping up, our provost and registrar have been working with the small number of classes that are near to capacity to ensure that adequate spacing is available for individuals who are unvaccinated to accommodate necessary separation. 

Contact tracing and cases

Our contact tracing team will use this information to help identify and inform people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Read the UAF contact tracing procedure for more information. 

  • It is important to note that if you are a close contact and you are vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine. Instead, you should get tested three to five days after exposure. This is a great reason to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Unless you live on campus, do not come to UAF if you test positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms, except to obtain a COVID-19 test (for off-campus students).



  • Mitigation plans are required to ensure that events can happen safely. It can take some time to determine the right mitigation measures for an event, so please be sure to submit an events request form as early as possible to allow the events office and the Operations Support Team enough time to work with you on event planning. All public events, including those for students, must use this form unless they fall under an exemption. The UAF events policy includes the link to mitigation forms, sample plans and the process for approval. 
  • We consider a variety of factors when determining whether an event can be held safely. Those factors include things like the size of the venue, the number of participants, air circulation, the availability of HEPA filters, and the number of cases in the local community. In some instances, events may need to be postponed or canceled if the risk to participants and the community cannot be well mitigated. 

Travel restrictions

  • UA President Pitney has requested that international travel be approved by the chancellor without the option to delegate. Please route all international travel requests through the vice chancellor for your unit prior to routing to my office for approval. To ensure requests are routed appropriately, please contact Amanda Lash, travel customer services manager, at alash2@alaska.edu to modify the workflow of approvals in Concur.

Inquiries about vaccination status:

I have been asked on a number of occasions whether individuals are allowed to inquire of others as to their vaccination status. In particular, are faculty permitted to inquire this of students in their class? Here is the guidance we have received. Generally, there is no reason to ask about vaccination status because 1) there is a universal masking requirement and 2) there is no broad vaccine requirement. If you do ask, no one is compelled to answer. You cannot inquire further, including asking why, and the information gained cannot be used to discriminate and must be kept confidential. I would encourage you not to ask as everyone is masked and individuals who are unvaccinated are asked to self-distance.

Lastly, we will be moving these COVID-19 updates to Thursdays, beginning next week. In some instances, we may communicate sooner than Thursday, but expect a weekly message from me every Thursday moving forward. 

Thanks for choosing UAF. 

— Dan White, chancellor


UAF is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer, educational institution and provider and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination/.