Arizona’s largest public universities announced on Friday that they would require their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to comply with President Biden’s September 9 executive order, which mandates the vaccination of federal contractors. Employees — including student workers — of the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University must be fully vaccinated by December 8, as directed by the Biden order.
In a letter to his staff shared with The Chronicle, the University of Arizona’s president, Robert C. Robbins, wrote: “The university has hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts, funding critical research, employment, and educational efforts, and already has received amended federal contracts that include this requirement. While we respect individual opinions regarding the vaccine, we will continue with these mission-critical endeavors and will be complying with this new requirement.”
Holly Jensen, vice president for communications at Arizona, said the three universities’ mandates had been coordinated through the Arizona Board of Regents.
So-called vaccine passports are banned in Arizona, thanks to an executive order by Gov. Douglas A. Ducey, a Republican. But Jensen said the new requirement is not considered a vaccine passport because employees must submit their own documentation of their vaccination status to the university’s health system directly.
“We’ve been doing it all along on a voluntary basis,” she said. “We’ve been asking our employees and students so we could track the percentages of people on campus [who are vaccinated]. It doesn’t go anywhere further than that — it stays within our health-care system, to make sure that we’re Hipaa- and Ferpa-compliant,” referring to the federal laws covering medical and student privacy.
The universities’ decision came days after Pennsylvania State University and the University of Delaware announced vaccination mandates for their employees, also in response to Biden’s executive order.