PITTSBURGH (TNS) — The University of Pittsburgh says it has “disenrolled” a number of students from classes for failing to comply with a universitywide COVID-19 vaccination mandate and barred a number of employees from campus buildings.
Pitt officials did not specify the number of individuals affected. Spring classes began Monday, though students are taking them largely by remote means under a shelter-in-place order limiting them to their dorms in order to deal with surging cases of COVID-19’s omicron variant.
”While we continue to work with those who are trying to come into compliance, late last week noncompliant students were disenrolled from classes, and lost access to Pitt buildings and certain IT functions,” Pitt spokesman David Seldin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an email late Monday. “In addition, noncompliant employees lost access to Pitt buildings and certain IT resources.”
He added, “Students and employees who come into compliance will be permitted to re-enroll and regain access.”
It was unclear how many faculty were affected and what staff and administrators may be involved.
About 29,000 of Pitt’s 34,000 students attend classes on the Oakland campuses. The balance are enrolled at Pitt campuses in Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown and Titusville.
For most of 2021, the university mounted an aggressive push to encourage its students and 15,500 faculty and staff to get the vaccine, offering incentives for those willing to roll up the sleeve and additional testing requirements for those who did not. However, it stopped short of a requirement.
It achieved a vaccination rate of 93% on all its campuses combined.
In November, Pitt leaders decided it was time to go further, requiring vaccination by Dec. 6. They explained their thinking in a memo to campus:
”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.
”By enforcing this requirement now, we will be able to maintain a high immunization rate on our campuses, while continuing to support our students and research, as well as protect our workforce, with minimal disruption to our programs, activities, or operations.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing a challenge to the legality of employer vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, more than 1,100 colleges and universities nationwide have enacted mandates covering students, employees or both, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
In Pennsylvania, Temple University enacted a requirement to comply with a Philadelphia city ordinance. A number of private campuses in the Pittsburgh region, among them Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne universities, have enacted similar rules.
The State System of Higher Education says its 14 state-owned universities can not enact a requirement without an act of the Republican-controlled state Legislature.