New St. Olaf campus COVID-19 policies will no longer require vaccinations and boosters for faculty, staff, volunteers, independent contractors, and staffing agency employers.
These new policies went into effect on March 9, according to an email announcement sent to the St. Olaf community from President David Anderson ’74. This change comes after requiring students to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the 2021 semester and continued booster requirements up until Jan. 2023.
The President’s Leadership Team made this decision after looking at the Minnesota Department of Health, Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other institutions’ guidance and recommendations in response to COVID-19.
“I know it feels like it’s a sudden decision, it wasn’t sudden,” said Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton ’87, who also oversees the campus COVID-19 response. “There was a lot of conversation, a lot of researching, considering, and consulting.”
“The college strongly recommends that all members of our campus community remain up to date with COVID vaccines,” Anderson wrote. They also recommend that incoming students and new employees have completed the primary vaccine series before joining the campus community.
The College still requires students, faculty, and staff to report positive COVID-19 cases via the health reporting form on the St. Olaf website. This requirement is set in place by the Minnesota Department of Health for the 2022-2023 academic school year and will be in effect until May 31.
Some students are concerned this new policy disregards current students’ health as a tactic to boost admission applications from prospective students. “Dropping the vaccine requirement just makes it more likely the student body gets sick, seemingly only for the sake of the admissions office,” Jack Kiehne ’24 said.
Other students favor this new policy and the College’s continued adaptation to the current COVID-19 climate. “I admire the College’s diligence in ensuring the policy reflects the latest health guidelines from CDC in the past couple of years,” Waylon Kurts ’25 wrote in an email to The Olaf Messenger. “Keeping in time with the latest guidelines is important, but ultimately this change is an acknowledgement of individual campus members’ responsibility for making decisions related to their health.”
Despite these changes, St. Olaf plans to host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic each fall. “Any member of the community — employees, faculty, staff and students can get vaccinated on campus to make it easier,” Eaton said.
About 98 percent of students and faculty are currently vaccinated and boosted. The incoming class will be strongly encouraged to have at least the primary series and are asked to report their COVID-19 vaccination status along with other standard vaccines. While reporting will be optional, Eaton says this data will be used to track the percentage of vaccinated students on campus.
About 200 COVID-19 cases among students and employees have been reported this year. The first full week of school in Sept. saw a peak of 30 cases, and no week since has reached that number.
The update email concluded with Anderson’s gratitude to the campus’ response. “Together we have thus far successfully managed our way through COVID,” Anderson wrote. “Thank you for your continued flexibility, diligence, and care for one another.”