UW-Madison told its employees on Thursday that they must be vaccinated by early 2022 to comply with a vaccine mandate for federal contractors.
The university said the order applies to all workers, including student employees, those working remotely from home and part-time workers. About 95% of employees are already fully vaccinated.
Roughly 1,800 UW-Madison employees have not yet provided proof of vaccination, university spokesperson Meredith McGlone said.
The University of Wisconsin System last month said it would comply with President Joe Biden’s executive order to avoid jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal contracts. But officials didn’t respond to questions about how broadly it interpreted the order and whether it covered all campuses.
Many other colleges across the country have cited the federal order when announcing campuswide worker vaccination requirements, even in some conservative states where mandates draw fierce opposition. At least a handful of schools, however, are narrowly interpreting the order by assessing which employees are involved in federal contract work.
Tommy Thompson, the interim president for the System, later said that four of the 13 campuses have federal contracts: Milwaukee, Madison, Stevens Point and Superior.
Under a draft version of “vaccination policy concept” paper the System sent to university leaders last week, other campuses could impose an employee mandate if the chancellor determines that the university may seek future federal contracting opportunities. The draft paper also appeared to allow campuses with federal contracts to either narrowly or broadly interpret the federal order.
Asked whether the System is leaving it up to campuses to decide if and how the order applies to them, System spokesperson Mark Pitsch said there’s no new System policy or guidance. Details of the order remain “subject to change” and “the situation is fluid.” He said each university has unique circumstances, and individual chancellors are responding to those circumstances.
The vaccination deadline is Jan. 4. Employees may request a medical or religious exemption.
Workers who don’t comply with the mandate or receive an exemption will face sanctions that could potentially lead to termination.