Fort Lewis College will require faculty and staff members to receive COVID-19 vaccinations for the fall semester – paralleling a policy already in place for students.
The policy, which was approved unanimously on Friday by FLC’s board of trustees, will allow for medical, religious and personal exemptions.
The college will work with anyone seeking an exemption to make reasonable accommodations for them and to increase testing for them.
“Our intent is that no one is going to lose their jobs over this,” said Steve Schwartz, FLC vice president of finance and administration. “We will work with anyone who needs accommodations.”
Schwartz said he had talked with three FLC employees who did not plan to be vaccinated – one for a medical reason, one for a religious reason and one who does not believe the vaccine is effective – all said they were “OK” with the exemption policy.
An example cited at the board of trustees meeting on Friday as a reasonable accommodation would be moving a faculty member’s office from a high-trafficked area to an area with less congestion.
Dick Kaufman, president of the board of trustees, said, “My personal belief is we need to take care of each other, and this will do it.”
Trustee Ellen Roberts said she supported the policy because it allowed for exemptions for those who do not want to be vaccinated.
Associate sociology professor Becky Clausen, the faculty representative of the board of trustees, said granting faculty privileges not offered to students, who are required to be vaccinated, would make for awkward and difficult classroom dynamics.
An existing power relationship is in place in the classroom, with the faculty grading the student, and a different requirement for COVID-19 protection would further create a power imbalance, she said.
“It would benefit the classroom culture that we’re held to equal standards,” she said.
A survey sent to faculty showed about 80% of faculty members supported vaccinations and 20% of faculty members believed it should be a personal choice, said FLC President Tom Stritikus.
Stritikus said requiring faculty and staff members to get the vaccination further supports the “we’re all in this together” ethos on campus in dealing with the pathogen.
The policy also makes tracking of unvaccinated people on campus more effective and sends a message to the broader community that FLC “believes in science.”
“We have faculty who do this type of work. We want to be a community leader,” he said.