Dear students, staff and faculty,

I am writing to share some COVID-19-related policy decisions that will impact life on campus this fall. We are able to make these decisions now, because Washington state has released their higher education guidance for the fall semester, so we now have a better understanding of what will be required of us.

Vaccination requirement for students, faculty, staff and volunteers

First and most importantly, Whitman has decided to require vaccination for students, faculty, staff, volunteers and campus visitors. This will allow Whitman to function as a “fully vaccinated campus” per state guidance, which means that in most cases, we will be able to return to an environment very close to life before the pandemic, including returning to pre-COVID capacities for campus spaces (including classrooms), removing masking and social distance requirements for both indoor and outdoor spaces, and welcoming fully-vaccinated visitors back to campus. This would not have been possible without requiring vaccination.

Vaccination exemptions

There will be exemptions to the vaccination requirement for students, faculty and staff, and we have adjusted our previously announced student exemption requirements to ensure consistency across students, faculty and staff. Exemptions will be given for medical and religious reasons, as well as for those who wish to delay vaccination until one or more COVID-19 vaccines are available that are fully FDA approved (those who elect to use this exemption will be required to get vaccinated once a FDA approved vaccine is available). Details about each of these exemptions and how to apply for an exemption are included in our COVID-19 vaccination policy

Per state guidance, those who have received an exemption and are not vaccinated will be required to maintain a physical distance of 3 feet, and will also be required to continue to mask in indoor settings. Whitman will also require those who are unvaccinated to mask in outdoor situations where crowd density does not allow for 3 feet of distancing. Those who are exempt from vaccination will also need to participate in Whitman’s weekly surveillance testing and self-certify that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis.

We have made exemptions available because we believe this is the only way we can otherwise require vaccines in a way that meets local, state and federal guidelines for both students and employees, and that mitigates risk related to potential COVID-related legal challenges. Still, it is our sincere hope that everyone in our community who is able will be fully vaccinated by the fall.

Those unable to obtain a vaccine in their current location

It is important to note that students who are unable to obtain a COVID vaccination in their community before coming to campus will be given quarantine housing, assuming that they agree to work with the college to be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Verifying vaccinations for visitors

Because we will need to verify that visitors to Whitman’s campus are fully vaccinated before they are allowed in buildings, any program or department choosing to bring visitors to campus must assign an employee to verify vaccination statuses before visitors are allowed to enter any Whitman facilities. Access must be continually monitored throughout any event with visitors. 

To ensure that only vaccinated individuals are entering Whitman buildings, all buildings will continue to require card swipe access. Members of the Whitman community who have submitted proof of vaccination will have a sticker added to their Whitman ID card that indicates that they are approved to be on campus for the fall.

Vaccinations for contractors 

Per state guidance, Whitman will also require contractors and their staff to provide proof of vaccination or submit an attestation that they have collected documented proof of vaccination from any staff who will be present on Whitman’s campus.

Next steps

Students, faculty and staff who have not yet provided proof of vaccination should do so immediately through the college’s vaccination verification form.

Students, faculty and staff who wish to request a vaccination exemption should review the exemption requirements and procedure listed in the COVID-19 vaccination policy and complete their exemption request as soon as possible.

International students who are unable to receive a vaccination before the fall semester due to lack of availability in their current location should reach out to Greg Lecki via phone (509-527-5005) or email (leckige@whitman.edu). Domestic students in this situation should reach out to the dean of students office via phone (509-527-5158) or email (jacobsbk@whitman.edu).

Those who manage volunteers should reach out to the appropriate cabinet member to arrange the collection of proof of vaccination and campus access for the fall semester.

More information about managing campus visitors and contractors will be provided as available.

Thank you for your attention to these important changes. I look forward to a fall semester where vaccination makes it possible to return to a sense of normalcy.

Best,

Peter Harvey
Coronavirus Task Force Chair