University of Alaska Fairbanks implements vaccine mandate, citing risk to research funds

The University of Alaska Fairbanks. (Photo by NASA/Goddard/Clare Skelly)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks announced Tuesday a vaccine mandate for all employees at the university, with the university’s leadership citing concerns that not having one would jeopardize as much as $300 million in research contracts.

The mandate comes because the federal vaccine mandate affects federal contractors, which requires employees paid for by or working on federal contracts to be vaccinated by early December. The mandate affects all employees at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Troth Yeddha’ campus as well as its research sites.

“Without acting on this vaccine requirement, we could lose substantial federal contracts, and with them jobs that support more than 750 employees and their families,” said interim President Pat Pitney in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement. “In addition, the ripple effect of the loss of these contracts would be widely felt as UAF’s research enterprise works with local contractors and suppliers across the state.”

It does not impact the University of Alaska Anchorage or University of Alaska Southeast, which are not currently impacted by the federal vaccine mandate according to the university’s announcement.

The announcement comes just as Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday issued an executive order barring state agencies from implementing a vaccine mandate “to the extent allowable by law,” which is part of a larger effort to stymie President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate that includes a lawsuit filed on Friday (Attorney General Treg Taylor was also photographed at a dinner with the headliners of the weekend’s vaccine skeptic summit).

The University of Alaska is, much to Dunleavy’s ongoing chagrin, insulated from the executive branch by the Board of Regents, which has sole authority over the UA system per the Alaska Constitution. Pitney told reporters, according to a report by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, that she had talked with the governor on Monday night about the decision for UAF.

“I am not willing to put at risk the funding, the number of jobs and the research institution,” Pitney told reporters, per the News-Miner. “These contracts could be done somewhere else. We made the decision we want to keep those jobs in Alaska.”

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