Pacific University starts school year under vaccine mandate
Under the old oak trees and a new vaccine mandate, students and faculty were back at Pacific University Monday, Aug. 30.
Ann Barr-Gillespie, vice president of academic affairs and chair of the university's COVID-19 task force, said that 98% of faculty members, including those who received a medical or religious exemption, and around 95% of students have been vaccinated. She added students have until the end of a class registration period in mid-September to submit proof they have gotten their shots.
"We had some challenges, especially with students coming from places without much access to the vaccine," said Barr-Gillespie, who is a physical therapist by trade. "All things considered, starting with our vaccination clinics last spring, it has been pretty smooth sailing."
In spring 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, Pacific scrambled to convert around 1,000 courses from in-person to online instruction. This semester, Barr-Gillespie said all courses, barring a few already offered through asynchronous online learning, have returned to in-person instruction — although the university has contingency plans to switch to virtual learning, if the COVID-19 situation significantly worsens.
Barr-Gillespie added that after a year of partial occupancy, on-campus living facilities are mostly full and enrollment is back to pre-pandemic levels of around 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students.
"Last year's undergraduates living in or near campus were about 700," Barr-Gillespie said. "This year, we are at about 1,400 students living in campus housing or in the Forest Grove area."
In addition to the vaccine mandate for students and staff, masks are required on campus in public spaces both indoors and outdoors, in accordance with state regulations.
Pacific is also conducting regular testing. Pacific detected three cases between Aug. 14 and Aug. 26, according to university officials.
The university is not imposing any limitations on domestic travel for students and staff and is allowing travel and study abroad under limited circumstances.
To mark the first day of classes Monday, campus hosted a convocation ceremony for both brand new students and those starting a second year who missed on-campus festivities last year.
"We had students back, sitting on the lawn — excited to be back," Barr-Gillespie said. "As an educational institution, we can say we're about as close to 100 percent vaccinated as we can get, and we hope that sets an example for our community."
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