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UND evaluates federal contracts to see how many employees fall under federal vaccine mandate

It’s a state of flux at UND right now, as the school needs to renegotiate federal contracts on a case-by-case basis. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing the dollar amount of those contracts, but including language that requires workers on those projects to be vaccinated. UND has more than $100 million in active federal contracts for research and educational programs. At present, the contractors of two of those deals have requested UND add language requiring vaccines. The Biden administration issued the mandate on Sept. 9.

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In the wake of a federal coronavirus vaccine mandate, UND administrators are reviewing the school’s federal contracts and are working to determine how many employees need to be vaccinated.

It’s a state of flux at UND right now, as the school needs to renegotiate federal contracts on a case-by-case basis. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing the dollar amount of those contracts, but including language that requires workers on those projects to be vaccinated. UND has more than $100 million in active federal contracts for research and educational programs. At present, the contractors of two of those deals have requested UND add language requiring vaccines. The Biden administration issued the mandate on Sept. 9.

“The bottom line is everybody's trying to figure this out, especially at the university level,” said John Mihelich, interim vice president for research and economic development.

The State Board of Higher Education OK’d a motion at its most recent meeting that gives state universities and colleges the authority to require some employees be vaccinated. The alternative could have potentially been the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for those institutions.

The two contracts at UND that are in the process of being modified come from the U.S. Department of Energy and General Services Administration. The value of those contracts could be up to $20 million. The contracts involve work being done with national defense, technology and biomedical research companies Leidos, and Applied Research Associates.

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According to Mihelich, contracts beginning on or after Nov. 14 must include language about requiring vaccinated workers. Ongoing contracts awarded before Oct. 15 must also include the language if they are extended or modified. Contracts entered into between those dates can only encourage the specific vaccination language.

It’s unclear how many of UND’s 2,460 benefited staff and faculty members will be required to get the shots. The university has not required employees to disclose their vaccination status, and until now, it hasn’t had to. Administrators are working to determine the number of employees who work on a particular federal contract or subcontract, who will then be informed they need to verify they have been vaccinated.

“We're working on how we're going to do that logistically,” said Meloney Linder, vice president of marketing and communications. “Our (information technology) folks have identified a program that would allow us to easily be able to let people upload their information, and verify that they're vaccinated.”

The vaccination mandate will also apply to students and graduate students who are doing work on a federal contract or subcontract. Federal grants are not included in the mandate.

In a Tuesday, Nov. 2, message to the campus community, President Andrew Armacost said the school will comply with the mandate, the details of which are still unfolding. More information will be released on who must get the shots and when.

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Armacost is president of UND.

In that message Armacost outlined the possible repercussions UND could face if it does not comply. The loss of federal contracts, he wrote, could hinder “the university’s ability to meet the research and educational needs of our students and the citizens of North Dakota.”

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Armacost urged people on campus to get vaccinated, in light of the mandate and the potential impact on federal contracts.

“With the uncertainty of federal contract renewals and scope of impacted employees, we strongly encourage you to vaccinate if you have not already done so,” Armacost said.

Linder said that so far, only one prospective graduate student has reached out saying they would not attend UND if the school requires COVID-19 vaccinations.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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