Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Employees, students disciplined due to non-compliance with vaccine directives

June 8, 2022
<p>Carts of hand sanitizer, blue latex gloves and signs separate vaccination stations inside the Breslin Center on Jan. 22, 2022. The Ingham County Health Department said a majority of those vaccinated were students.</p>

Carts of hand sanitizer, blue latex gloves and signs separate vaccination stations inside the Breslin Center on Jan. 22, 2022. The Ingham County Health Department said a majority of those vaccinated were students.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

MSU students and employees who weren’t compliant with the COVID-19 vaccine directive have been disciplined, MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said.

More than 500 employees were terminated, but more than 90% of those were temporary on-call employees. Only 28 permanent employees were terminated due to non-compliance with the directive.

“Here in (university communications), we may use a temp on-call to do some freelance writing for us and it may be a year or two before we need to use them again,” Olsen said. “(The majority) are folks who aren’t working on a regular basis for the university.” 

A total of 88 students were suspended during the fall semester as a “last resort” after reminders of their obligation to comply with COVID-19 directives. During the spring semester, more than half of those students returned after fulfilling their obligations.

“For some students, that’s filling out the vaccine verification form, for others, it could be getting vaccinated or seeking an exemption and filling out that form,” Olsen said.

MSU changed its compliance approach for the spring semester, placing academic holds on students’ accounts which prevents them from further enrollment in the university. About 1800 students had holds placed on their account this past spring semester as of April 27.

In August, MSU administrative associate and fiscal officer Jeanna Norris filed a lawsuit against the university after non-compliance with the vaccine directive, saying she had a “natural immunity” after becoming infected with COVID-19. 

After amending the complaint and adding former MSU employees D’Ann Rohrer and Kraig Ehm to the suit, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in February. 

According to her lawyer, Jenin Younes of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, Norris was granted a religious exemption. Younes said she received the exemption shortly after the preliminary injunction was denied.

Olsen confirmed Norris is still employed at the university. 

In order to receive a religious exemption, students and employees must request it through the vaccine verification form. They need to provide justification for their exemption. Their responses are submitted to a committee that reviews the requests and then approves or denies them. They may also file an appeal after the initial denial. 

“The high vaccination rates and booster rates that we had this last academic year contributed to the great success of an in-person learning experience for our students as well as our employees,” Olsen said. “It’s important that we hold students to our requirements and ensure that we are creating as safe a campus community as well as our surrounding community as we can.”

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