The University of Pittsburgh Cracks Down on Unvaccinated Students and Staff

Students who have not complied with Pitt's vaccine mandate have been “disenrolled”


As COVID-19 infections spike worldwide in a surge the Allegheny County Health Department said “is breaking all kinds of local, national and international records,” one local university has taken a step to ensure its campus is fully vaccinated.

The University of Pittsburgh announced Monday that it “disenrolled” an unspecified number of students and faculty members for failing to comply with the universitywide vaccination mandate late last week. These individuals will be removed from their courses and lose access to university buildings until they comply, at which point they’ll be permitted to re-enroll and regain access.

Those students who choose not to abide by the vaccine mandate and not re-enroll would be eligible for tuition refunds.

Back in November, the university said that the entirety of its campus would be required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 6, or have an approved exemption. It defined “fully vaccinated” as having completed a primary COVID-19 series of vaccine doses authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization, and explained that if additional doses are later designated as a part of any vaccine sequence — like booster shots, for instance — students, staff and faculty members must also comply with that change.

Exemptions, it said, would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, “and can only be requested for medical reasons, or reasons based on sincerely held religious belief or because of a strong moral or ethical conviction,” according to Pitt’s website

Religious and moral exemptions require a notarized attestation, and medical exemptions require a doctor’s signature. Faculty, staff and students who are granted an exemption will be subject to additional mitigation measures, such as routine COVID-19 testing.

Prior to the requirement, the university had already implemented a range of incentives urging folks to get the jab, and additional testing requirements for those who would not. Across its campuses — Oakland, Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown and Titusville — the university achieved a 93% vaccination rate among its roughly 34,000 students.

But this, officials decided, would not be enough in the long run.

“While successful to date, this approach is not sustainable in the long term. The most effective, data-driven and sustainable approach to keeping our community healthy and safe is one that utilizes vaccination — or an approved exemption — as a condition of studying or working on our campuses,” read a statement issued to university members in November.

Classes began Monday for Pitt students and faculty, but will be largely remote for the first two weeks of instruction, according to an email sent out to students on Dec. 30. 

“As we continue to monitor the spread of the new variant and its severity in our community, we will remain vigilant and adjust plans when necessary for the safety and health of our campuses. Your resilience and dedication to our mission over the past 22 months has been extraordinary, and I am once again calling on you for your continued flexibility and understanding,” wrote Ann E. Cudd, provost and senior vice chancellor, in the email.

“The arrival of the highly transmissible omicron variant” also disrupted move-in procedures for students who live in on-campus housing; a separate email, also sent out at the end of December, detailed procedures including COVID-19 testing for students in university housing and the implementation of a university-wide shelter-in-place beginning Saturday, Jan. 8. 

Duquesne University also announced in a Jan. 3 email that its return to campus would be modified due to the omicron variant. It provided a 10-day flexible arrival period and doubled down on its mitigation efforts, which include increased testing, mandatory indoor masking and its own vaccination policy. 

Duquesne students have to provide proof of vaccination, and unvaccinated students will be responsible for all associated costs of testing, quarantine, isolation and medical treatment, should they contract the virus.

“Students who are required leave prior to the end of semester due to COVID-19 sickness and who have not provided the university proof of vaccination will not be eligible for refunds on housing and dining fees,” the university’s website reads. “For all of these reasons, obtaining the vaccine will be beneficial for students, whether they live on or off campus.”  

In a Jan. 6 email, Duquesne announced that it will require all returning students to provide proof of a negative COVID test within 48 hours prior to arrival on campus. Classes at the Uptown university begin on Wednesday, and are thus far slated to begin in person.

Categories: The 412