ISU to give '4 strikes' regarding COVID vaccinations

·5 min read

Dec. 4—Indiana State University will give students and employees "four strikes" before they face serious consequences that could include suspension and termination as it looks to enforce a new policy requiring either proof of COVID vaccination or weekly testing.

The new policy, announced Sept. 23, takes effect the week of Jan. 3 for employees and the week of Jan. 10 for students.

Students found in violation four times would be suspended for the remainder of the spring semester, although they have an opportunity to appeal; staff found in violation four times face termination, although there is a grievance process.

For faculty, with the third violation, they will be referred to a discipline and dismissal procedure. With the fourth violation, the faculty member will receive the outcome of the discipline and dismissal procedure.

"What's most important is that we're putting the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as our highest priority," said Mark Alesia, ISU director of communication. Four "strikes," or four missed COVID tests, could result in termination for employees and suspension for students.

He added, "We think this gives people plenty of chances to comply with the policy before there are serious consequences," he said.

Offenses for failure to participate in weekly testing are cumulative and do not start over after intermittent compliance.

The university on Friday released additional details related to the implementation of the Sycamore Community Health Initiative (SCHI), or the requirement to show proof of full vaccination or participate in weekly testing.

Students and employees face a series of notifications before final action would be taken.

For students:

—First violation: students will receive a letter from the office of the dean of students requesting compliance.

—Second violation: Students will be given a conduct warning by email from the Office of Student Conduct and Integrity.

—Third violation: The student will be placed on conduct probation.

—Fourth violation: Student Conduct and Integrity will conduct an expedited administrative conference, and a student found to have violated the requirements for a fourth time will be suspended for the remainder of the spring semester. Students will be able to appeal.

President Deborah Curtis announced the initiative Sept. 23 aimed at protecting the health of the campus community and helping return to normal operations. "The health and wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff is always our top priority," Curtis said in a statement. "We continue to encourage our campus community to get vaccinated."

According to Alesia, "We've reminded people constantly that we will have this policy in place."

The testing requirement ends when a person provides proof of full vaccination, even if that happens after the semester has started.

Testing will be done in Dede II in HMSU and appointments must be pre-scheduled. Testing hours will be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge through May 20.

For staff, the process is as follows:

—First occasion: documented verbal warning and staff member must test as soon as possible and no later than three days from receipt of notice.

—Second occasion: formal written warning to employee and supervisor with copy in personnel file. Clear warning that failure to comply in the future will result in termination of employment with expectation employee test as soon as possible and no later than three days from receipt of notice.

—Third occasion: Final written warning letter to employee, supervisor, and second level supervisor and/or vice president with expectation employee test as soon as possible and no later than three days from receipt of notice.

—Fourth occasion: termination of employment. Staff do have a grievance process.

For faculty, notifications will come from the provost's office.

First occasion: written notice, with instructions to test as soon as possible and no later than three days from receipt of notice.

Second occasion: letter of admonishment, copied to chairperson, dean, and official personnel file. Letter will include notice that failure to comply a third time will result in referral to the discipline and dismissal policy. Faculty members must test as soon as possible and no later than three days from receipt of notice.

Third occasion: faculty member will be referred to the discipline and dismissal procedure.

Fourth occasion: Faculty member will receive the outcome of the discipline and dismissal procedure.

For students and employees, semester-long exemptions are not available. They can be excused from testing for a specific week if they are in quarantine as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, or they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days.

Another employee exemption would be if they are unavailable because of university-approved leave and related reasons; for students, an exemption would be given for hospitalization, military duty, approved university travel or other verifiable leave.

Keri Yousif, chair of the ISU faculty senate, said faculty senate officers have been part of the discussion "for a long time." A specific discipline/dismissal committee may be established to deal with this particular issue.

"I am glad they (consequences) are being put out now so everyone understands the process and clear consequences outlined. I want the procedure to be transparent," she said.

Faculty leadership is supportive of the consequences outlined. "I teach in person and I want to make sure in-person instruction and activities remain safe for everyone," Yousif said.

She said she is confident a high percentage of faculty have already provided proof of vaccination and those who haven't will meet the testing requirement.

If a faculty member did have a fourth violation, the consequence would be considered by the committee in consultation with the provost. There has been no discussion of a set consequence, but potentially could include unpaid leave, removal from the classroom or even dismissal, she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com. Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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