Despite requirement at NDSU, UND holds steady on vaccine requirement for some employees

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Nov. 30—While North Dakota State University is requiring all of its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, for now at least, UND is holding its course in only requiring employees who work on federal contracts to get the shots.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani announced on Nov. 29 that all employees must get the shots by Jan. 4, in order to comply with a mandate that applies to entities that hold federal contracts. The school has more than $30 million in such contracts. UND has more than $100 million in active contracts, and administrators there say that as the landscape around various federal vaccine mandates unfolds, the school may need to make a change in its vaccine policy for employees.

"It's a very fluid situation, so one never knows what could happen down the road," said Meloney Linder, vice president of marketing and communications. "At this point, we're still status quo."

Linder told the Herald that UND continues to work on modifying two federal contracts that will require employees to be vaccinated. More contracts requiring vaccinated employees will soon follow.

President Andrew Armacost, in a mid-November message to the campus community, said UND will sign several federal contracts in the coming weeks, and that "dozens more" are expected to follow.

Employees who are identified as working on a federal contract will be notified by the school, and will have deadlines as to when they must submit proof of vaccination. In part, those deadlines will revolve around the renewal date of existing contracts or the award date of new ones. Employees will receive information on how to submit their proof of vaccination, as well as how to apply for a medical or religious exemption.

UND will hold an online town hall meeting at noon on Thursday, Dec. 2, to answer employee questions about the mandate.

Armacost acknowledged "uncertainty" in the political and legal landscape of vaccine mandates, but wrote "... UND will take a deliberate and steady approach to comply with the mandate." That uncertainty stems from a discord in the balance between federal and state authority, he wrote.

The office of the North Dakota attorney general has weighed in on the mandate for federal contractors, and has advised its implementation at North Dakota University System campuses, as has the State Board of Higher Education. But, noted Armacost, shortly after receiving that state-level guidance, the attorney general joined lawsuits against the various federal mandates.

Armacost, long a vaccine proponent, encouraged UND employees to get vaccinated, if they have not already done so.

It's unclear how many of UND's 2,460 benefited staff and faculty members have already gotten the shots.

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