CWU News

COVID-19 Planning Committee, Task Force Have Made Significant Progress

Good morning,

This communication is a follow-up to President Wohlpart’s August 24 email announcing the Executive Leadership Team’s (ELT) endorsement of the recommendations made by the COVID-19 Fall 2021 Planning Committee and Task Force. Our latest recommendations identify key elements that will be included in the university’s vaccination policy and related plans for minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on the university community this academic year.  

Our recommendations were a result of many meetings and conversations among the Planning Committee and Task Force members this summer.  We have heard concerns related to the safety and well-being of all CWU community members; parents with unvaccinated children; fear of reprisal for wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status; and many other apprehensions due to the constantly changing public health environment.  

The Task Force members discussed the potential impacts of the recommendations we have made, and the level of responsibility required of students and staff. We also have identified who will be responsible for implementation and oversight of the policy, and the possible repercussions for not complying with the policy.  We have done our best to listen with respect and to show appreciation for those individuals who, with a great deal of grace, have elevated the voices of their governance groups members and shared a wide range of opinions.  

The Task Force’s recommendations to the ELT are intended to ensure the health and well-being of the CWU community.  Equally important is our goal to ensure our plan for recovery, including returning to in-person activities in Ellensburg, is successful and not hindered by COVID illness amongst our students or employees.  In order to welcomes students and employees back to in-person working, learning and living activities this fall and to dispel with physical distancing requirements we must satisfy the requirements outlines in Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-12.4 as a fully vaccinated university.  

To date, we have recommended that: 

  • all CWU employees and students — with the exception of those enrolled in College in the High School program and international students living outside of the US who are taking online courses — be vaccinated or submit a request for medical or religious exemption; 
  • students will submit their vaccination documentation through Med+Proctor, which is HIPAA-protected. Only basic information regarding vaccination or exemption status will be entered into PeopleSoft (FERPA-protected);
  • the philosophical exemption — which is no longer an option for CWU employees per Proclamation 20-25.15 amended by Governor Inslee on August 20 —be rescinded for students;
  • both students and employees be required to submit proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or request a medical or religious exemption no later than October 18 in line with Proclamation 21-14.1; and 
  • the face-covering requirements that are currently in effect this summer per Proclamation 20-25 be extended to at least October 18 and be reassessed as we approach this date.

These recommendations are based on the fact that the CDC, DOH, and KCPHD all maintain that the best way for our communities to return to normalcy is to increase the number of individuals who are vaccinated. Washington state data released July 28 shows that between February and June 2021, at least 94% of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in individuals 12 years or older occurred in those who were not fully vaccinated.  

The Task Force believes that removing the option for the philosophical exemption for students will encourage more students to become vaccinated, and thereby improve the health and safety of our communities. This change also will provide clear and consistent requirements for student-employees and employees who are students.  One of the primary goals of the Task Force is to promote a safe and healthy environment that allows students returning to campus an opportunity to engage in robust in-person learning and living experiences at Central throughout the fall term and for the entire 2021-22 academic year.

The Task Force also has agreed that requiring students and employees to adhere to the October 18 deadline mandated by the governor will minimize confusion and provide students who had intended to submit a philosophical exemption with enough time to get vaccinated, seek guidance from a medical provider, or consider alternate plans for fall.  Additionally, we believe that extending the existing face-covering requirements until at least the vaccination deadline provides added safety precautions during a period of time when some CWU community members may be unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. 

Our next set of recommendations will be focused on the process by which employees will provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination without the need to keep any official medical records.  The process for submitting an exemption will require one-on-one discussions with Human Resources to determine a personalized accommodation plan to ensure the employee’s safety in the workplace and in the event of a COVID outbreak.  The Task Force also is drafting a COVID-19 vaccination policy, which will include all of the above, as well as the repercussions for not complying with the policy, up to and including mandatory withdrawal for students and termination for employees.

As the president stated in his communication, the Task Force plans to submit our recommendations for the employee-related processes necessary to comply with the policy by September 3.  Once these recommendations are approved by the ELT, we will be in a position to complete a draft of the policy for review.

If you have specific questions, please direct them to one of the Task Force members below.

Best regards, 

Gail Mackin & Gregg Heinselman
Committee Co-Chairs

COVID-19 Fall 2021 Planning Committee

  • Gregg Heinselman, Dean, Student Success, Co-Chair
  • Gail Mackin, Associate Vice Provost, Academic & Student Life, Co-Chair
  • Madeline Koval, President, ASCWU
  • Dr. Mark Larson, Public Health Officer, Kittitas County
  • Greg Lyman, Chair, Faculty Senate
  • Alethia Miller, Government Relations, President’s Office
  • Staci Sleigh-Layman, Executive Director, Human Resources
  • James Jankowski, Director, Project Management

COVID-19 Fall 2021 Planning Task Force

  • COVID-19 Fall 2021 Planning Committee members
  • Lidia Anderson, Chair, Classified Staff Employee Council
  • Ethan Bergman, Chair, Health Sciences
  • Robert Cepeda, Emergency Management Coordinator, Public Safety
  • Anne Cubilie, Member, Provost’s Council
  • Sigrid Davison, Associate Director, Diversity & Inclusivity
  • William (Chris) Everett, President, CWU Washington Federation of State Employees 
  • Kara Gabriel, Vice President, United Faculty of Central
  • Jonathon Henderson, Executive Member, CWU Exempt Employee Association
  • Lauren Hibbs, Executive Director, University Centers 
  • Kelly Hogan, Associate Dean, Student Health & Wellness
  • Gary Hyatt, Deputy Director, Athletics
  • David Leder, Content Writer, Public Affairs
  • Dion Rivera, Member, Academic Department Chairs Organization
  • Mark Young, President, CWU Public School Employees of Washington