All NMSU employees systemwide must become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 in order to comply with new federal requirements, the university announced Wednesday.
The policy change removes the alternative of weekly COVID-19 testing announced in August for employees, including student employees.
The announcement comes in response to Executive Order 14042 on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, signed by President Joe Biden on Sept. 9, which was followed by additional guidance released Sept. 24 by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, outlining how the safety protocols apply to federal contractors. NMSU joins many other universities nationwide in aligning with the federal mandate.
“The NMSU system maintains millions of dollars in federal contracts that support research and development in a broad range of disciplines,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said. “We are among hundreds of universities across the country who are considered to be federal contractors. After consulting with federal and state agencies, as well as our legal counsel, we’ve determined that this vaccine requirement applies to every employee in our system.”
That includes undergraduate and graduate student employees, contract and temporary employees, and employees working remotely, including in other states. Students who are not employees of the university continue to have the option to test weekly for COVID-19 if they choose not to become vaccinated. Employees may apply for a medical or religious exemption to the vaccine requirement by contacting the NMSU Office of Institutional Equity.
The NMSU system has roughly 7,561 employees, including 1,786 faculty members, 2,740 staff and 3,035 student employees. Of those, more than 85 percent have already submitted proof of vaccination to the university’s VaxTrax system. The remaining 15 percent have a limited time to begin their vaccine series in order to become fully vaccinated by the Dec. 8 deadline. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose.
The university system’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols policy, ARP 16.32, outlines the details of the disciplinary process for employees who do not comply with the new requirement. In Arvizu’s message to campus Wednesday announcing the mandate, he emphasized that the vaccine mandate was a condition of employment, but expressed hope that most would choose to stay at the university.
“The protocol we announced in August offered a weekly testing option, and while we can no longer offer this alternative to our employees after Dec. 8, we respect and value every employee of the NMSU system,” Arvizu said in the memo to employees. “We hope that when you’ve weighed your options, you’ll choose to become vaccinated and continue be part of our NMSU system workforce.”