Rice issues update to COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees


Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby, chair of Rice's Crisis Management Advisory Committee, sent the following message in a Nov. 19 email to the university community:

Dear colleagues,

I write with a very important announcement about vaccination requirements for Rice employees, and some additional updates. So far, we’ve not seen it necessary to mandate that faculty and staff receive vaccinations for COVID-19 given our very high rate of voluntary vaccination — well over 90% of our community of about 12,000 people.

We’ve had to reevaluate that position because of two recent requirements from the federal government. An Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stipulates that employers with more than 100 employees “must establish, implement and enforce a written mandatory vaccination policy” and that employees who are not vaccinated “must be tested for COVID-19 at least once every 7 days.” But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily halted OSHA's directive and ordered that OSHA take no steps to implement or enforce the ETS until further court order. Thus, this OSHA directive does not currently affect Rice, but we will continue to monitor further action by the courts.

But a second directive does impact our vaccination policy — President Biden’s Executive Order Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors. Rice does accept federal contracts, so we must comply with this order requiring all Rice employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, unless they’re granted a medical or religious exemption.

Rice’s Office of General Counsel, together with Human Resources, has prepared a document that details how Rice will implement this requirement. The Executive Order applies to all Rice full time and part time employees, including student hourly workers. Undergraduate and graduate students who are not Rice employees (such as graduate students only paid on stipends) are not covered by the Executive Order. As a result of the Executive Order, every staff and faculty member who is on campus, or will come to any campus building, will have to be fully vaccinated and provide proof that you’re fully vaccinated (if you have not already done so) by Jan. 4, or seek a medical or religious exemption. The vaccination requirement policy is available here. Please review the policy for instructions on the steps you must take to comply with the vaccine requirement or request an exemption.

If you are fully vaccinated, check to be sure your Rice vaccination record at this link is up to date. If you need to update your vaccination record, please be sure to carefully read the screen and follow the directions.

General questions about the vaccination policy should be addressed to Human Resources at people@rice.edu. Religious accommodation requests or questions should be sent to the Office of Access, Equity and Equal Opportunity at aeeo@rice.edu. Medical exemption requests or questions should go to the Disability Resource Center at adarice@rice.edu. Questions related to the VEOCI survey should be directed to helpdesk@rice.edu.

Vaccine clinics: As a reminder, Rice will be offering an additional on-campus vaccination clinic on Friday, Dec. 3. More information about this clinic will come from the Crisis Management Team.

Testing before and after Thanksgiving recess: We will have limited COVID-19 testing and contact tracing the week of Thanksgiving. Testing will be offered Monday through Wednesday during our regular testing hours and at our regular testing locations, but there will be no testing on Thursday. On Friday, testing will be available from 8 a.m. until noon.

The university will resume in-person classes after the Thanksgiving break. We want to remind everyone to schedule a test not only as close as possible to their return date, but also an additional test three to five days later. We are working with our testing partners to accommodate this additional capacity. If it’s possible, wherever you travel during the break, we would also encourage you to get tested before you return to the campus. To book a test on campus, please visit https://coronavirus.rice.edu/schedule-test .

We encourage you to travel as safely as possible and practice good health measures during the holiday break.