On Nov. 3, the University of Pittsburgh issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that applies to all Pitt students, faculty, and staff. The policy will require that everyone provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or obtain an exemption before Dec. 6. Students that fail to meet this deadline will be disenrolled prior to the spring semester and will not be allowed to attend classes until they obtain proof of vaccination or an exemption.
Austyn Carson, president of Pitt-Greensburg’s Student Government Association (SGA), said that SGA met with the administration of Pitt-Greensburg to discuss the mandate prior to its announcement.
“We weren’t surprised because of the numbers and stuff like that,” Carson said. “We didn’t think it was going to happen until next year. Our goal in SGA right now is to give students the right information that they need to get vaccinated and to make sure that they know that there are exemptions available.”
The mandate comes in the wake of an uptick in COVID-19 cases across all Pitt campuses since late October. From Oct. 27 to Nov. 9, Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office has reported 138 new cases across all Pitt campuses. At Pitt-Greensburg, 5 students and 1 staff member have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 27.
The administration held a public Zoom meeting on Nov. 5 to discuss the policy’s details and to answer student questions. Students were asked to comply with the policy to avoid disenrollment.
“You have to do the right thing. We don’t want anyone who is trying to do the right thing to be shut out of their educational opportunities,” President Dr. Robert Gregerson said. “The last thing we want anyone to do is to stop their academic progress because they’re not vaccinated or they have not submitted an exemption request. Please do that. One or the other.”
Exemptions were a repeated topic of discussion at the meeting. Administrators said that exemptions are processed on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI) in Oakland.
Those who wish to request an exemption are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, as OEDI will not review any exemptions submitted after Nov. 29. Students and staff can obtain a medical, moral, or religious exemption form online, which must be submitted to the online exemption request form. All forms must be notarized before submission, either at an official notary or on campus in 201 Lynch Hall. Anyone with questions regarding exemption requests can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Similarly, those wishing to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to attend Pitt-Greensburg’s weekly vaccine clinic in the Chambers gymnasium on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. until the end of November. The clinic provides both initial doses and booster doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Masks will still be required indoors, and individuals that have obtained an exemption to the vaccine mandate will still need to submit a negative COVID-19 test each week. Individuals previously infected with COVID-19 will still need to vaccinate or obtain an exemption from the OEDI.
Carson said SGA is working to facilitate relations between students and administration moving forward and reminded students that the University respects different attitudes towards the policy.
“I hope that the end goal with this mandate is that we can start getting back to normal,” he said. “It’s evident that the student body is diverse in its opinions about this, which is fine. SGA respects your opinion, and the University does, too. They could very well have given the mandate without any type of exemption. I think that’s a great respect factor.”