Despite rising hospitalizations from yet another COVID-19 surge, the University of Oregon opted to drop the COVID vaccine requirement for incoming students as of June 2023. In addition to dropping the vaccine requirement, UO leadership has decided to discontinue many other prior COVID-19 safety resources and policies—including ending the Monitoring and Assessment Program for testing on campus, and ending the COVID-19 Sick Leave Program for UO employees—meant to protect workers and students on campus. This is a major capitulation of UO’s responsibilities to protect the health and safety of students, workers, and the greater Eugene community.
The GTFF believes this covert abdication of responsibility on the part of the university must be reversed. COVID cases are on the rise across the country, and the Center for Disease Control has reported more than an 8% increase in COVID-19 deaths in a single week during late September. This dangerous public health threat never disappeared and continues to disproportionately affect vulnerable communities, including immunocompromised individuals, those with other medical conditions or disabilities, and those with limited healthcare access.
COVID-19 safety is an issue of public health, equity, community care, disability rights and workplace democracy. Graduate Employees and other workers on campus deserve to have their voices heard in crucial decisions about safety in our workplaces. Once again, workers at the University of Oregon will be on the frontlines of exposure.
The GTFF urges the University of Oregon leadership and upper administration to take COVID-19 more seriously by reinstating and expanding public safety protections, including:
- Reinstate the COVID-19 vaccination requirement
- Reinstate the COVID-19 Sick Leave Program for UO employees
- Expand access to COVID-19 vaccination resources on campus and widely advertise the availability of COVID-19 shots in the Health Center
- Return the air purifiers UO purchased for COVID-19 protection to all classrooms, meeting rooms, and other public spaces on campus
- Provide free testing resources on campus, including lab tests and take home kits
- Increase access to effective masks across campus by making them freely available at building front desks, and advertise this resource clearly online and in person
- Utilize existing infrastructure to track and publicize cases of COVID-19 on campus
At a time when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise and the only hospital in Eugene is facing a potential closure, the University of Oregon’s decision to rollback the vaccine requirement and other public health programs is irresponsible, negligent, and reckless. The University of Oregon can—and must—do better for our community.