July 27, 2021
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As I move forward with my transition into Bentley's presidency, I continue to be struck by the extraordinary efforts underway to welcome the community back to campus for a new academic year in just over a month. I am immensely grateful to be part of such a community. I know that our students are excited and ready to hit the ground running in September, and we will be poised to support them closely every step of the way.
Supporting our students includes keeping them and our faculty and staff safe. I believe there is a collective responsibility on the part of all members of our community to participate in providing a healthy and safe campus community this fall. In May, we announced that all undergraduate and graduate students would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by August 1. At that time, we also announced that all faculty and staff would be required to attest to their vaccination status by June 15 so we could monitor vaccination levels among employees. An April survey of our community found that 96% of faculty and staff intended to be fully vaccinated this summer, a level that if attained, would have provided for a healthy and safe environment without mandating action. As of today, however, only 85% of our employees report that they are vaccinated. This is a lower level of vaccination than would be necessary to fully and safely reopen our campus in the fall, and the start of the academic year is quickly approaching.
Unlike in May and early June, when the number of cases was declining, COVID-19 cases are once again on a steady rise in Massachusetts and across much of the country. The new variants of the virus are moving quickly, particularly through unvaccinated populations. This reality threatens to disrupt our fall semester and the promise of a full, comprehensive and student-centered learning experience at Bentley. Among the areas likely to be compromised under such a scenario are in-classroom learning efforts, at-capacity residence halls, in-person events and collaborative work environments.
As a result, today I'm announcing on behalf of the Cabinet our decision that all faculty and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the start of fall classes. Only faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to participate in the start of the semester. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your final vaccine dose, so you must have your final shot and submit your completed vaccination card to the Bentley Health Portal by August 24.
This deadline provides enough time for those who have not yet started their vaccination process to be fully vaccinated before September 7. As was done for students, faculty and staff will be allowed to formally request an exemption for medical or religious reasons. A medical exemption must include contraindication documentation from your health care provider, and a religious exemption must be declared in writing clearly stating the religious belief that requires you not to be vaccinated. Those who are approved for exemption will be required to continue wearing face coverings, participate in weekly screening tests and maintain physical distance while on campus.
It was our goal to make vaccination voluntary for faculty and staff, but the reality of our current community vaccination levels and the evolving COVID-19 environment have severely changed the equation. Based on the available data, I believe this decision is right and necessary. The CDC has made clear that vaccines are highly effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and reducing the severity of the disease if contracted. We must pursue every action we can to protect against community spread or outbreaks this fall and to ensure a healthy and safe community -- vaccination is our most effective tool toward this end. This requirement now means that our community will be fully vaccinated, ensuring a healthy and safe living, learning, teaching and working environment for all.
This mandate will be strictly enforced, just as it will be with students. As with students, faculty and staff will be required to upload scans of their vaccination cards to the Bentley Health Portal. Employees who have not been fully vaccinated or approved for an exemption by the September 7 deadline will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence for up to 60 days as determined by the needs of the university. At the end of that period, if the employee is still not vaccinated, we will determine whether to conclude that the employee has abandoned their job.
If you have questions, you can find more information including a detailed FAQ on our Back to Bentley vaccinations page. Our Bentley community has worked so hard over the last 16 months to get through this pandemic. Please be sure to get vaccinated and upload your vaccination card as soon as possible so we can safely come together this fall.
President E. LaBrent Chrite