Executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, workplace safety protocols could impact UI faculty

A Sept. 9 executive order from President Joe Biden requires federal contract employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 and have “adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.” This includes compliance with Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations of masking and social distancing.


Bing Lovan

A University of Iowa faculty council meeting is held at the University Capitol Centre in the Old Capitol Mall on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Faculty Council is awaiting administrative action after a Sept. 9 executive order from President Joe Biden required COVID-19 vaccinations for federal contractor employees by December.

The order applies to any workplace that is involved in federal contracts, which includes the UI. The UI receives federal funding for research, making it a federal contractor.

The Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors, issued on Sept. 24, outlines the workplace safety protocols federal contractors such as the UI are required to follow, including:

  • COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation
  • Compliance by individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, with the Guidance related to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces
  • Designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces

The council is not exactly sure how the executive order will apply to them yet, Teresa Marshall, UI faculty council president said at the meeting on Tuesday.

“We really don’t have any more information at this point other than we will be doing something as the Board of Regents figures out how to implement this,” Marshall said.

Lois Geist, associate provost for faculty, said at the meeting on Tuesday that she thinks the administration and regents are trying to get all of their information correct before sending out a statement.

“I think they’re trying to be more deliberative about it. It is a conversation that’s being had with the other sister institutions in the state, as well as with the AAU, the Big Ten,” Geist said.

The order is short and does not have a lot of guidance and there is a lot of back and forth with D.C. about what it actually means, Geist said.

“The spectrum is pretty broad, if you already have a mandate in place, you don’t have to do much if you’ve got nothing, you’ve got a lot of a lot of scrambling to do,” she said. “It’s not just any federal money, it’s federal contracts. For us, that’s $600 million just to us alone in federal contracts.”

Josh Lehman, senior communications director for the state Board of Regents, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the board is still in the process of reviewing the order.

“We are reviewing all executive orders and federal rules issued and evaluating them for any impact on the public universities,” Lehman wrote.

The guidance also outlines that all individuals, including contractor employees and visitors, should comply with published CDC guidance for masking and social distancing in the workplace.

While students are not named in the order, Marshall said it may be possible students would be considered as visitors in campus buildings, but that she is not sure.

Overall, the UI Faculty Council is waiting for news before making any statements of its own, Marshall said.

“Ideally, we will have news in the next few days,” Marshall said. “I think that it’s something we could all interpret from reading the paper, that there’s something coming, but we have no idea exactly how it’s going to be implemented.”

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